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Parentesi lamp (ph Alecio Ferrari)

| Designbest editorial staff

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urquoise and Signal Orange are the two new colors which Flos has chosen to adorn Parentesi, its iconic lamp designed by Pio Manzù and Achille Castiglioni in 1971. On the occasion of its 50th birthday, it is available in a Special Edition with the same discrete elegance of the original model.

Parentesi, one of the most cherished icons of Italian design, is clear proof of how apparently simple industrial design can exhibit innovation, perpetual strength, and timelessness.

The lamp, which was drafted by Manzù and left unfinished due to his untimely death in 1969, initially looked like a cylindrical volume which could slide along a rod for adjusting its height. It was Castiglioni who took the drafts and reinterpreted them up to the final design: in place of the rod a metallic cable was inserted. This technical gambit reduced materials and components to a minimum. This brilliant intuition was added to another important technical innovation: the sliding tube in the form of a parenthesis (where it gets its name) which allows one to move the lamp with just the pressure of the hand. It might seem like an aesthetic affectation, but instead conceals a revolutionary design, which won the Compasso d’Oro in 1979.

Adjustable in height, rotating at 360°, and freely orientable, this “minimal” lamp allowed for countless setups. It was a genuine engineering masterpiece composed of a steel cable, a cylindrical counterweight, a tensioner, a circular disc with a hook to attach to the ceiling, a lampholder with a rotary joint, a parenthesis-shaped support, and a visible spot lightbulb. Everything was broken down and packed in a plastic and vacuum-sealed kit which could be brought home like a piece of luggage.

The same goes for the new Special Edition curated by the Flos design curator Calvi Brambilla, who chose a philological approach to revisit every detail of its design, including the packaging. The kit was given up some years after the creation of Parentesi for technical and cost reasons. However, today it is proposed in the original version thanks to digitalization and the evolution of industrial processing.

And the colors? Those were also part of the initial design and replaced with black for the technical difficulties linked with the colorization of the base. The choice to replace the rubber with silicone was made in order to recreate Castiglioni’s original idea (a colorful lamp) while keeping the original elements unaltered.

There is turquoise for Castiglioni, his favorite color, and Signal Orange in honor of one of Pio Mazu’s automobile prototypes. Simple and brilliant, it demonstrates that, for the past and present, design is a subject for all.

 

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