Alessandro Mendini

Alessandro Mendini

b. 1931, Milan, Italy.

Alessandro Mendini is an Italian designer, architect, artist, theorist, and poet who graduated from Politecnico di Milano in 1959 with a degree in architecture. His designs have been characterized by his strong interest in mixing different cultural elements and different forms of expression, ranging from graphics, furniture, interiors, paintings, and architecture. Contrary to the opinion of Memphis member Ettore Sottsass, Mendini claims that everything has already been invented and used, with the only remaining option being to use it again. This is expressed in Mendini’s work as redesign and in a great appreciation of decoration. Mendini holds the opinion that ornamentation ought to be the point of departure for design, exemplified by his quintessentially postmodern Proust Armchair, in all of its incarnations. In his own words, “every person is different, so why shouldn't an object also be different?” In Mendini's view, it is not the function of the object that ought to be the starting point, but its beauty - thus, not the object but the user dictates the results.

In the 1970s he 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. His work in product design was influential, pushing the boundaries of what products could be. A notable example of his work is the 1974 Lassú chair built atop a pyramid structure, which turns the conventional notion of function on its head. In this work Mendini addressed the domestic object as a “conduit for spirituality”, which he reinforced by ritualistically burning it, preserved through photography and featured on the cover of Casabella in 1975.

For his artistic endeavors and his significant contributions to postmodernist design, Mendini has been awarded a number of international prizes, including the Compasso d'Oro in 1979, 1981, and 2014. He holds an honorary title from the Architectural League of New York as well as the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from France. Together with his brother Francesco, he currently runs his own practice in Milan called the Atelier Mendini and has collaborated with leading international brands including Cartier, Hermes, and Swarovski.

sign up to receive exclusive updates from

the modern archive

here’s some of what you’ll get