The Parentesi lamp is a favorite at Switch Modern. We recently installed a pair of these in our Atlanta showroom and were reminded about how extraordinary this lighting design is as it blurs the boundaries between the lighting typologies of floor lamp, ceiling light, and wall light.
This drawing illustrates Pio Manzu's original concept and its evolution. After Manzu's death, Achille Castiglioni refined the design - the last drawing illustrates Castiglioni's final version that has been in production by Flos since 1971.
Parentesi was the result of an atypical collaboration between Achille Castiglioni (1918 - 2002) and Pio Manzu (1939 - 1969). Known for his industrial design work in the automotive industry, Manzu had been working on the concept for the lamp, producing several working drawings. In 1969, Manzu died suddenly in an automobile accident. Speaking about his father's lamp design, Manzu's son, Giacomo Manzoni, said "My father collaborated indirectly with Achille Castiglioni on the famous Parentesi lamp. My father had left behind a lot of designs and projects. These included one for a lamp, which was sent to Castiglioni, who was then creative director at Flos. He liked the design, so he developed it and had it produced. And in a rare move for the design world, where it is easy to appropriate other people's ideas, the lamp was attributed to them both."
Beginning in 1971, Flos started producing the design and it has remained in continuous production for nearly five deacdes. Parentesi quite literally means "parenthesis" or "brackets" in Italian and its name refers to the similarly shaped sliding diffuser support that enables this extraordinary design to function both as floor lamp and suspension light.
Left photo: The original packaging of the Parentesi lamp with all of the various components visible. Right photo: The Parentesi lamp is available with three finishes - black, nickel, and red.
This beautifully engineered design is actually assembled by the user and is ultimately customized to fit the user's specific space. It features a steel cable that runs from ceiling to floor - the cable is threaded through a curved tubular steel bracket that contains an integrated pivoting socket in its center. The cable is attached by hook from the secured ceiling mount and again by threaded hook attached to a dense, weighted rubber cylindrical base. The cable length can be cut to fit virtually any ceiling height as it is simply threaded into the hooks on each end and secured in place by tensioning a screw. The cable, having been "clamped" within the tubular steel bracket, creates the necessary tension allowing the bracket to slide vertically along the cable to find a resting height of the user's choice. The pivoting socket also allows you to direct the light from the reflector bulb.
Parentesi is a clever solution for placing a light source in virtually any location that has a wall outlet and where a very small footprint is desired. These are perfect singly as illustrated in the above left side photo. As illustrated in the right side photo, several together can be used to create a fabulous installation with bulbs that seemingly float within an interior directing light onto a wall to highlight a piece of art or simply diffusing light upwards or downwards.
Parentesi is included in the permanent collections of several museums worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The lamp was awarded Italy's prestigious Compasso d'Oro in 1979. For more information about the Parentesi lamp, please contact Switch Modern at 404-605-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.