CENTO3 - the Last Project by Achille Castiglioni

07 Jan 2022

The writing instruments designed in 2001 by architects Achille Castiglioni and Gianfranco Cavaglià are engineered, produced and distributed by EGO.M 20 years later.

Giovanna and Carlo Castiglioni tell the story of how they found the prototypes of this unpublished project by Achille Castiglioni hidden and kept behind the big angular mirror in their father’s studio in Milan. Hidden within the 2012 headquarters of the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni, the prototypes were the last of his career, co-signed with architect Gianfranco Cavaglià: the writing instruments.

The wooden prototypes, created by expert cabinetmaker Pierluigi Ghianda, replicate the trilobate arched shape studied by Castiglioni and Cavaglià that, thanks to its distinctive ergonomy, represents the true alliance between mind, hand, and object, as well as having the particularity of not rolling on a table (“this aspect seemed of some interest to us”, recalls Cavaglià with a smile).

The project was left in a drawer for many years, as it had not yet found the indispensable and precise interpretation of the original design goals, as well as the investments required for the complex production of such an unusual chosen shape. Then, in 2020, Fondazione Achille Castiglioni and Gianfranco Cavaglià met EGO.M, a young Italian design studio to which they entrusted the development, engineering, and production of the project, revealed on the date of Achille’s 103rd birthday: February 16th, 2021.

EGO.M contribution – 2020
Respectfully aware of their responsibility, having ascertained the basics of the project, its ethos, and its original intentions from Cavaglià during a year of collaborative work, EGO.M focused on the realization of the instruments.

During the constant dialogue between the partners, the project drawings were carefully analyzed, with just three among the wooden prototypes selected for production: a mechanical pencil, a multifunctional art pencil, and a fountain pen in pocket version. The selection was by no means casual, but rather it aligned with a precise vision for the project: the mechanical pencil represents the technical drawing, the multifunctional art pencil is practical, handy, and appropriate for many uses, and the fountain pen has been deliberately chosen in a pocket version to be more contemporary, unconventional, and closer to the younger generations.

The rigor, engineering, and structural development of the collaboration between EGO.M and architect Cavaglià coexists in the collection with the sharpness and irony of every Achille Castiglioni project. The original features of innovation, sustainability, respect of quality, and cost-containment that architect Castiglioni assigned to the project in order to ensure its wide and democratic accessibility have in fact been fully interpreted and respected by the EGO.M team, given that those values are embraced at the core of their philosophy and modus operandi.

3D printing and graphene
Fused Deposition Modeling, a three-dimensional printing technique, has been selected for production due to versatility which enables it  to produce that unique shape. It’s interesting to note that the existence and application of such a technology has enabled the realization of a project left in a drawer hitherto because of production issues.

The 3D printing process is based on the additive manufacturing technique that, starting from a blank space, allows the printer to deposit material only where necessary, layer by layer, up to the top of the object, therefore realizing production without any waste.

In this kind of process, the attention to materials – so important to the architects, Castiglioni and Cavaglià – is truly essential. EGO.M therefore focused its research on finding something innovative for the writing world that could also interpret the fundamentals of the project. Graphene immediately seemed the right choice due to its natural features and finish, its mechanical properties, and its color. Graphene is composed of a monoatomic layer of carbon and graphite, made of a carbon layering, so it seemed appealing to finalize the writing concept by employing the writing itself as the principal material: a pencil made of pencil or, better, made of graphene!

3D printing also leaves a particular texture on the objects: a trace, like a scar, that represents value, a sign of authenticity that certifies the slowness of production and the uniqueness of each piece. In addition to being smooth to the touch, the instruments also have a knurl grip that allows for more comfort, also thanks to their pleasant lightness that Cavaglià says “we considered an absolutely positive feature for a writing instrument”.

With this production technique, every piece is realized individually, allowing it to be referred to as industrial craftsmanship. The slow creation, the thickness of the sides, and other important printing parameters determine the final rigidity of the object, giving it resistance to impacts.

CENTO3: one name, many meanings

Achille Castiglioni said that “even naming objects is an act of design”, and as a result, the title for this collection was also a matter of study and research.

  • 3 the designed objects and their respective writing typologies
  • 3D the production technology
  • 3 the project’s partners – EGO.M, Fondazione Achille Castiglioni, Gianfranco Cavaglià
  • 3 the involved generations
  • 3 the fingers that hold the writing instrument
  • 3 the arches of the trilobate shape

In CENTO3 (103, HUNDRED3) the redundancy of the number 3 is united with the three years past the centennial. Achille would have turned one hundred and three on February 16th, 2021, the day CENTO3 was first presented to the public.

Collection Datasheet

Multifunction art pencil, with a trilobate arched shape, made in graphene filament and aluminum details. Each tool is individually made by using innovative additive manufacturing 3D techniques.

Graphite refill Ø 5.5mm included. 
Length cm 10.3 
Max Ø cm 1.5
Weight g 22
Price 50 euros.

Fountain pen in pocket dimensions, with a trilobate arched shape, made in graphene filament and aluminum details. Each tool is individually made by using innovative additive manufacturing 3D techniques.

Black ink cartridge included.
Nib medium, broad, or fine stroke.
Length (closed) cm 10.3
Length (open with cap) cm 13.5
Max Ø cm 1.5
Weight g 23
Price 65 euros.

Mechanical pencil, with a trilobate arched shape, made in graphene filament and aluminum details.
Each tool is individually made by using innovative additive manufacturing 3D techniques.

3 mines HB 0.7mm included.
Length cm 13.0
Max Ø cm 1.1
Weight g 13.0
Price 50 euros.