From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Alessandro Mendini (16 August 1931, Milan – 18 February 2019, Milan) was an Italian designer and architect. He played an important part in the development of Italian, Postmodern, and Radical design. He also worked, aside from his artistic career, for Casabella, Modo and Domus magazines. He taught at the University of Milan.
He is known for such items as the Proust Armchair (1978).
The character of his design is marked by what was his strong interest in mixing different cultures and different forms of expression; he created graphics, furniture, interiors, paintings and architecture and also wrote several articles and books.
Mendini graduated from Politecnico di Milano in 1959 with a degree in architecture and worked as a designer with Marcello Nizzoli. He was the editor-in-chief of Domus magazine from 1979 to 1985 and changed the landscape of modern design through his quintessential works of postmodernism, such as the Proust Armchair and the Groninger Museum. Just as works of the Renaissance period expressed human values and sensibilities, Mendini contributed to bringing into the heart of design those “values” and “sensibilities” that have been eclipsed by commercialism and functionalism. He collaborated with leading international brands including Cartier, Hermes, Swarovski, and Supreme.
Up until his death in 2019 he ran his own practice in Milan, the Atelier Mendini, together with his younger brother Francesco Mendini (b. 1939).
In the 1970s Mendiini was one of the main personalities of the Radical design movement. He became one of the founding members of the "Global Tools" collective, which was set up in 1973. In 1979 he joined the Studio Alchimia as a partner and there he worked with Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi. In 1982 he co-founded Domus Academy, a private postgraduate design school in Milan.
As an architect, he designed several buildings; for example the Alessi residence in Omegna, Italy; the theater complex "Teatrino della Bicchieraia" in the Tuscan city of Arezzo; the Forum Museum of Omegna, a memorial tower in Hiroshima, Japan; the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands and the Arosa Casino in Switzerland. Especially, The Groninger Museum is considered one of the most amazing postmodern buildings of the late 20th century, and was also selected as one of the “1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die.”
His work in product design was influential in the sense that it pushed the boundaries of what products could be. A notable example is his Lassú chair from 1974, a chair built on top of a pyramid structure, which forgoes conventional notions of function. Mendini was addressing the domestic object as a conduit for spirituality, an idea reinforced by his ritualised burning of the chair, photographed for placement on the cover of Casabella in 1975.
As designer, the historical value of the RAMUN amuleto lamp designed in 2010 is the ring shape that accentuates the strengths of LED, which enhances lighting uniformity. The use of a transparent material flaunts the mechanism of the lamp. A mix of various colors in the minimalist structure, consisting of circles and straight lines without any spring or wire, inspires human sensibility. Thanks to its beautiful design and superior performance, the lamp is permanently displayed at the Moderne der Pinakothek in Munich, Germany.
Alessandro Mendini was awarded several international prizes, including the Compasso d'Oro in 1979,1981 and in 2014. In 2014, he was awarded with The European Prize for Architecture by The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. He held an honorary title from the Architectural League of New York as well as the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Republic.