FLOS STORIES: Parentesi - A Tale of Magic and the Dialectic of Design

6 September 2023
FLOS STORIES: Parentesi - A Tale of Magic and the Dialectic of Design
Connection is at the heart of good design - it's about creating unexpected relationships between people, objects and technology. And no lamp illustrates this better than Parentesi, created by Pio Manzù and Achille Castiglioni and produced by Flos since 1971. On the occasion of the lamp's 50th anniversary, it is now presented in two bold colors: Turquoise and Orange.

The story of Parentesi begins with the tragic fate of young designer Pio Manzù, who died prematurely in 1969. Although Castiglioni was familiar with Manzù's work, their paths never crossed. But thanks to Manzù's widow, Castiglioni was introduced to some of his drawings and one of them caught his attention. This was the beginning of the Parentesi lamp: a simple but brilliant idea.

The drawing represented a light-emitting cylindrical container resting on a rod that connected the ceiling and floor. With a screw, the container could rotate half a turn and move up and down. This was the basis for Parentesi, characterized by Manzù's desire for simplicity and cost savings and Castiglioni's fascination with the idea of movement. Together with Flos engineers, they worked to realize this vision, where the lamp could be held in place without the use of a screw using a metal wire and friction. The result was a light, affordable and dynamic lamp.

Parentesi was not only a design icon, but also a co-design tool. The lamp was presented in a naked packaging, two plastic shells created in a single form, an approach reminiscent of the way Manzù displayed mechanical car parts as works of art when designing cars - including the legendary Fiat 127. This approach also emphasized the accessibility and simplicity of the product.

But the story of Parentesi isn't just about design. It's also about respect. Castiglioni chose to share the authorship of the lamp with his late colleague to pay tribute to both Manzù's intuition and the technical skill that made the lamp a reality. This was a noble gesture and a reminder of the importance of valuing ideas in a world where respect for creativity is often lacking.

To celebrate Parentesi's 50th anniversary, Flos' design curators, architects Calvi Brambilla, have drawn on the imagination of both creators. They have presented two special editions in the colors Turquoise and Orange Signal as a tribute to Castiglioni and Manzù. This is more than just a nostalgic gesture; it is an example of the ongoing dialog between design masters, a conversation that has lasted for 50 years.

The Parentesi lamp remains a manifestation of the magic of good design and a reminder of how collaboration between creative minds can create timeless icons.

See all Parentesi lamps here!