Italian design company Castelli began dates from 1877 when Ettore Castelli founded a small workshop in Bologna. In 1939, the firm was renamed Anonima Castelli and began producing modern office furniture for which the brand is best known on the vintage market. It is recognized as one of the foremost manufacturers of Italian design of the 20th century and as the producer of the iconic Plia Chair.
In the 1960s, Giancarlo Piretti (born in Bologna in 1940) joined Castelli as an interior designer. During his twelve years at Castelli, Piretti obtained numerous industrial patents and designed many now iconic models, primarily in seating design. Piretti was instrumental in establishing Castelli’s international reputation, being the creator of the brand’s most successful and well known designs. Undoubtedly a design classic, Piretti’s plastic folding Plia Chair (1968) was exhibited at the Fiera del Mobile fair in Milan in 1967. The chair, which has sold over four million units since 1969, won the BIO 5 award at the Ljubljana Biennial in 1971, Germany’s Gute Form prize in 1973 and can be found in permanent collections of museums in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and the United States.
Piretti’s most famous designs for Castelli include the DCS 106 Stacking Chair (1965), Plona Lounge Chair (1969), Alky Chair (c. 1970), Plantone Folding Desk (1970), Plano (1971, Gold Medal IBD), Planto Coat Rack (1972), and the modular System 61 Sofa (1973)
In the late-1970s, Piretti worked with Argentinian architect-designer Emilio Ambasz (b. 1943), and the pair created the two ergonomic seating systems Vertebra (1979, winner of the Smau Industrial Design Award) and Dorsal (1981) for Castelli.
Although Castelli’s legacy is often defined by its partnership with Piretti, the brand has produced work by many other talented designers including Claudio Bellini, Rodolfo Bonetto, Michele De Lucchi, Hans Ell, Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, Gino Gamberini, Nilo Gioacchini, Enzo Mari, Charles Pollock, F.A. Porsche, Mario Ruiz, and Richard Sapper. Important designs include Sapper’s Nine to Five Desk (1986, winner of a Compasso d’Oro); Pollock’s Penelope Chair (1982); Porsche’s Executive Office Series (1989); and Ruiz’ K22 Program (2005).
Castelli received four Compasso d’Oro Awards between 1981 and 1991.
In 1992, Castelli became part of the Haworth Group. Today, Castelli specializes in producing environmentally friendly and sustainable products.