The Taccia Lamp, designed by Achille Castiglioni and older brother Pier Giacomo in the late 1950s, is a design classic that has stood the test of time; it's still in production today, six decades later, by original manufacturer Flos. What's interesting about the design is that in an effort to be forward-thinking, the brothers Castiglioni initially came up with a design that failed.
The base of the lamp is an aluminum extrusion, designed with a finned cross-section to dissipate the heat of the bulb held within.
The top of the base is ringed by a collar that is upturned at its perimeter.
This collar acts as a cradle for the transparent diffuser, an inverted dome. Because the radius of the bottom of the diffuser corresponds with the radius of the collar-cradle, the diffuser can be manually tilted to the desired angle and will remain in place.
This being the 1950s, the brothers Castiglioni decided the diffuser should be made of the then-newfangled material of plastic. But after having a plastic diffuser fabricated for the prototype, they found that it melted once the heat of the bulb got to it.
So much for newfangled. The brothers were forced to backtrack towards a more reliable and traditional material: Glass. To achieve the form they wanted, they worked with skilled craftsmen in Murano, the Venetian region that has housed expert glassmakers since the 13th century. The production method for the Taccia diffuser remains the same today.
Working out all of the production kinks took a few years more, and Flos finally unveiled the Taccia Lamp in 1962. Design critics hailed it as a fine example of Postmodern Design, as it combined the space-age-looking aluminum extrusion with the handblown glass dome.
Achille Castiglioni would later chuckle at the designation, stating that he and Pier Giacomo hadn't been aiming for Postmodern at all, and turned to traditional glass because the plastic had melted. As for the aluminum extrusion, "We consider it the Mercedes of lamps, a symbol of success: perhaps because it looks like the shaft of a classical column," he said in an interview. "We certainly weren't thinking of prestige when we designed it. We just wanted a surface that would stay cool."
Today Flos sells the original design with the glass diffuser for $3,825. However, there's also a $2,250 version with a plastic diffuser (made of modern methacrylate, which won't melt) available from other retailers.
If you've never seen the lamp in person, this short clip gives you a good sense of how the dome sits in the housing, and how easy it is to manipulate.
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