By Cheryl Lai-Lim
July 02, 2021
The work of Italian architect brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, the Flos Arco floor lamp is an iconic piece that has remained a timeless favourite. Here, we explore the origins of its design
With its silver arc, globe-like shade and elegant marble base, the distinctive Flos Arco floor lamp is easily recognisable. The iconic lamp, named after its signature arch feature, is a beloved classic.
It has made silent cameo appearances in movies and TV shows like Mad Men and the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever, and has also been spotted adding a gentle glow to the interiors of Iron Man Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) luxurious abode as well as the living room of Ryan Gosling’s character Jacob Palmer in Crazy Stupid Love.
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The famous lighting piece is often hailed for its innovative design. It provides direct overhead lighting, without the need for installing a wired ceiling suspension—a rare feat that lamps before it couldn’t achieve.
The free-standing structure is made up of three components: a thin, arched neck in stainless steel, a bulbous head containing the lightbulb that offers direct and indirect lighting, and a sturdy base crafted from Carrara marble.
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Arco’s sleek functionality is half the reason for its popularity; the slender telescopic arm—able to project light as high as 95 inches off the ground—provides versatility with its adjustable height. The heavy base, weighing 65kg, keeps the lamp grounded and can be doubled as a small and charming side table.
The design of the Arco was never attempted prior to its debut due to the tricky engineering it required. In 1962, at the peak of Italy’s post-war design renaissance, visionary Italian architect brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni attempted—and succeeded—to create the first of such lighting piece. The brothers, who were also industrial designers, were fascinated with experimenting the amalgamation of technology and design.
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In an interview published by credit card and financial services company American Express, Achille’s daughter Giovanna revealed that her father and uncle drew inspiration for the Arco lamp from the street lamps found on the sidewalks of Paris.
The brothers’ meticulousness and eye for detail shine through the lamp. The corners of the marble base are intentionally beveled, designed to minimise the possibility of injury should users bump into the lamp. The heavy base also features a hole in the middle, which allows two people to effortlessly lift and shift the lamp.
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Being exclusive designers of lighting manufacturer Flos, the Castiglioni brothers have been manufacturing the Arco lamp for Flos since the Italian company’s beginning. It is still in constant production today; the lamp and other designs produced by Flos are available in Singapore at Space Furniture.
Produced according to the Castiglionis’ original design, the materials have remained consistent aside from the 40th-anniversary limited-edition pieces that featured a black marble base. Brilliantly marrying form and function, the Arco lamp’s sleek structure exudes a sense of refined timelessness that looks graceful in any abode.