y grandfather was a visionary with a pioneering spirit” announced Lorenza Luti, Kartell’s marketing and retail director, when speaking about Giulio Castelli who, while at the helm of the Kartell brand, was able to upend the principles of design.
Born in 1920, Giulio Castelli had a scientific mind (he graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1943 under the tutelage of Nobel prize-winning chemist Giulio Natta) and a visionary entrepreneurial spirit. He founded Kartell in 1949, kicking off a long and fruitful collaboration with the best architects of the time: Gino Colombini, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Joe Colombo, Marco Zanuso, Gae Aulenti, Richard Sapper, Giotto Stoppino and Ignazio Gardella are just some of the professionals with whom Kartell pioneered its original approach centered on economy of materials, technological innovation and process efficiency.
The exhibition Giulio Castelli. La cultura imprenditoriale del sistema design, unveiled with the opening of Milan’s ADI Design Museum, is an homage to the man and entrepreneur who revolutionized the sector of design by introducing plastics into furniture and recognizing the profession of the designer. A portrait of Castelli taken by Chris Moyse and his biography open up the exhibition inaugurated on May 25, 2021. It introduces us into the world of this enlightened businessman and takes us on a written and photographic journey of his life. Public and private photos, stories, and facts are gathered in 15 theme-based chapters that summarize the stages of his career and explain his mission in the world of design. It begins with his connection to the Salone del Mobile and the ADI-Associazione of Industrial Design (he was one of its nine founders in 1956) and moves on to relationships with other entrepreneurs and museums, and his wife Anna Castelli Ferrieri—another important voice in the history of design.
Up until 1988, the year in which the company was taken over by his son-in-law Claudio Luti, Giulio Castelli never stopped carrying forward “the culture of plastic” through projects that revolutionized the everyday lives’ of society by promoting concepts of quality, technological innovation, durability and versatility.
The company tenaciously preserves this DNA, pushing itself everyday towards further development with sustainable and regenerable materials. Technological research and attention to design have always been the pillars Kartell’s design, keeping the heritage of Giulio Castelli alive. This forward-thinking intuition made Kartell one of the founders of the entrepreneurial system of Italian design (not surprisingly the company received the Compasso d’Oro in 1979 for a “company policy based on consistency in the design of its products, constant research and an evolving image”). And still today, it continues to move and amaze us just as it did 70 years ago.
Where: ADI Design Museum, Piazza Compasso d’Oro, Milan, Italy
When: until November 1, 2021