Influential Italian architect, designer, and theorist Alessandro Mendini passed away earlier this month and in honour of his legacy, we are looking back at his lasting impact on the design world. Born August 16, 1931, Mendini was a key figure in the radical design movement of the 1960s, as well as the postmodern movement that followed, who went on to produce influential works of architecture, interior design, furniture and lighting throughout his 60-year career. His influence on design ideology is perfectly summed in a 2010 article, where Alice Rawsthorn of W Magazine describes him as a man so prolific that, “even if you’ve never heard of Alessandro Mendini, you’re bound to have been affected by his work… because our lives would be different without him.”
A prolific designer
As an architect, Mendini designed several buildings, among these the Alessi residence in Omegna, Italy, the theater complex “Teatrino della Bicchieraia” in the Tuscan city of Arezzo, a memorial tower in Hiroshima, Japan, the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands and the Arosa Casino in Switzerland.
Influential product design
In addition to his architectural work, his product design and ethos towards design itself continue to create an impact across the world today. Some of his most ubiquitous designs include the “Proust” armchair for Italian furniture Manufacturer Magis, which is Baroque in shape but constructed using materials such as polyurethane foam and plastic, and the “Anna G.” and “Alessandro M.” corkscrews for Alessi which feature playful “creature-objects.” As recently as 2016, Mendini designed a line of merchandise for New York-based streetwear company Supreme.
Radical Design Ideologies
Mendini was a purveyor of design ideology, and an influential theorist having served as the editor-in-chief of architecture and design magazines Casabella and Domus and founded the magazines Modo, in 1977, and Ollo, in 1988. In a 2015 interview with Dezeen, he references his influence in seminal design movements of the 20th century. “I worked for three magazines. The first one was Casabella, the second was Modo and the third was Domus. They corresponded to very precise ideologies: radical design at Casabella; interdisciplinary at Modo; and Postmodernism at Domus. The way of realizing the magazines was very precise because the design [ideology] was strong.”
A lasting legacy
Mendini’s legacy lives in on in the wildly influential movements he contributed to, and in the buildings and products he produced during his career, all of which have a distinct playful quality within them. One of the most flamboyant figures on the design scene, for Mendini, colour, pattern and play were all vital. Teetering on the brink of kitsch and attacking the assumption that good taste exists, he told Architectural Digest in an interview last year, “I think that besides being functional, an object must have a soul and express friendliness.” The design world would do well to take a page or two from Mendini’s book; sometimes we need more than just austerity.
Cody is a content creator at Glossi Mag.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.