Radically different: Ettore Sottsass

Radically different: Ettore Sottsass

The publishing house Phaidon has released a new edition of the well-loved monograph on the Italian designer and architect, Ettore Sottsass. This is occasioned by his 100th birthday. It mirrors the works of the designer comprehensively. Ettore Sottsass represented, like no other, the post-modern games played with shapes, materials and colours. The publishing house Phaidon honours one of the most unconventional designers of the 20th century. This publication is thus, the ideal supplement to the many of the centennial birth anniversary exhibitions that deal with the Italian’s works and also underlines their relevance. Glass and ceramic works were to be seen in Venice. The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein dedicates itself to the designer with the title “Rebel and Poet” up to the 24th of September. In addition, the Museum Met Breuer in New York exhibits works from Sottsass in its exhibition titled “Design Radical”.


From an architect to an industrial designer

Before Ettore Sottsass (1917–2007) revolutionized industrial design, he worked as an architect together with his father. After completing his studies as an architect in 1939, they redesigned Italian cities in the spirit of modernism in the aftermath of the Second World War. However, it was during his subsequent work with the furniture manufacturer, Poltronova, (from 1957) that his instinct for the expressive combination of colours and structures became apparent. This was to become the trademark of his language of design in later years. As an example, the “Califfo” sofa from 1964 captivates you with its green and pink striped upholstery, which is in striking contrast to the very reduced size of its wooden frame.


Focus on emotional design and post-modernist play

The “Valentine”, a portable typewriter that he designed for Olivetti in 1968 has become an icon. It has become a symbol of pop culture through its unconventional shape made of plastic and its red colour. It is considered an example of Sottsass’ understanding of emotional design. This is because the typewriter was meant to be a comforting companion during lonely hours. David Bowie was one of its well-known users. He is said to have composed several songs on his Olivetti. Sottsass also created a stir as a member of the Memphis Design Group, which lasted from 1981 to 1988 and which had thrown the modern design approach of “form follows function” overboard.

Individual artistic impulses and an understanding of the piece of furniture as an icon were at the forefront of the design to give it a high recollection value. The results of that were brightly coloured pieces of furniture in cross-border variations of colour and shapes that defied the accepted rules of good taste and of the fine arts. Products such as the “Carlton” room divider attracted the attention of both critics and admirers to the same extent. Karl Lagerfeld belonged to the latter group and he had his apartment in Monaco fully furnished by Memphis.


Sottsass is presented as a multi-facetted designer

The book, “Ettore Sottsass”, presents him as a multi-facetted designer and, aside from the many photographs of his industrial designs, it also includes many of his sketches and drafts. His works in the field of architecture and graphic design are also presented. This is thanks to the fact that Sottsass dedicated himself, to an ever greater extent, to his original profession and with the “Haus Wolf”, he created a highly unconventional piece of architecture: Brightly coloured with large balconies and put together, as if, by the hands of a playful child. His glass and ceramic works also underline his enthusiasm for those materials and clearly emphasize his enjoyment of the lusty interplay of colours as much as that for the cultures outside of Europe. It was the relics of those outside cultures that inspired him to create his striking and eye-catching shapes. Amongst the more than 800 illustrations, there are also several biographical photographs as well as an essay by the editor, Philipp Thomé, who gives a detailed chronological insight into the different creative periods that Ettore Sotsass went through, all the way up to 2007. Five additional texts deal with the respective design disciplines in a well-founded way.

This comprehensive 492 page book offers design enthusiasts and fans of Ettore Sotsass the opportunity to discover the entirety of the works of the Italian designer. The clear and easy-to-understand structure of the book allows the reader to comfortably follow the chronology of the book or also to select individual disciplines and periods. As opposed to the first edition, which is sold out, this new edition is also substantially cheaper.

Ettore Sottsass (New Edition)

Posted on 06.09.2017

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