Italian design: Celebrating the life of an Italian designer, the heritage of Alessandro Mendini (1931-2019)

Mar 15, 2019 559

Alessandro Mendini graduated as an architect but through his career he also worked as a designer, teacher and journalist. Mendini was born in Milan in 1931 and passed away last month, leaving behind a path of creativity in fields that, in spite of their differences, overlap. Along his long career he created graphics, furniture, interiors, paintings, architecture; he also covered the role of editor and writer. 

Alessandro, known as Sandro, played and important role in the development of the Italian Radical design in the 60’s. Mendini developed a personal approach to creativity, his designs were always characterised by his desired to mix cultures and form of expression. An example of this approach is the postmodern armchair called “Poltrona Proust” (1978) where he investigated the connection of literature and design with a strong remark in the artisan process; “Poltrona Proust” is considered the most famous Italian armchair in the world, Mendini starts his creation process by reading Proust, that for him, had a strong descriptive style. He visited where the writer lived and what he liked, finding out that both had a passion for pointillism. Sandro’s creative process was intense and in strong connection with the source of inspiration, the armchair itself, a faux baroque model, was found by Mendini in a street market in Veneto (Italy). Every single aspect of the design has a why and has been studied in detailed. 

As an architec he worked in several important projects, one to mention is the Groningen Museum (1994) in the Netherlands. This museum is considered one of the buildings to visit in a lifetime and indeed the construction, placed on the water, is astonishing. The museum is composed by 3 pavilions, Mendini coordinated the project and designed the yellow tower that corresponds to the entrance of the museum. The result is rather futuristic and colourful, echoing the Italian Post Modern design, an extravagant entrance to the city through a cycling and walking bridge that connects the museum to the train station.

Mendini contribution to design is iconic, as the majority of the public would recognised the objects he created for Alessi, an Italian houseware design company. Among them we can find the corkscrew Anna and Alessandro (1994) or the sommelier corkscrew Parrot (2005), in cast aluminium with hand-decorated “Proust” a clear reference to the armchair.

Last but not least Alessandro Mendini was an educator, in 1982 he founded Domus Academy together with Maria Grazia Mazzocchi, Alessandro Guerriero, Pierre Restany, Andrea Branzi and Valerio Castelli, a place where students can submerge themselves in the Italian design and learn from it:  to me this is the ultimate heritage that an artist can leave behind.

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