“What he discovered and revealed easily made him one of the most influential designers of our time.”

For the Love of Alessandro Mendini

Miles/March 18, 2013

Instead of the title of “designer,” Alessandro Mendini should be given the title of investigative designer, for what he discovered and revealed easily made him one of the most influential designers of our time. With several international awards under his belt (the Compasso d’oro in 1979 and ’82 as well as an honorary title from the Architectural League of New York and “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” from the French Republic), Mendini combines art, architecture, and study in all of his work.

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Without the influence of Mendini, the development of Italian design could have gone down a completely different path. His design has been characterized by his strong interest in mixing different cultures and different forms of expression; he creates graphics, furniture, interiors, paintings and architectures and wrote several articles and books; he is also renowned as an enthusiastic member of jury in architectural competition for young designers, such as the DBEW competition in South Korea or the Braun prize. He also teaches at the University of Milan.

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After studying architecture, he worked as editor-in-chief of Casabella and Modo magazines, and from 1979 to 1985 he was editor of Domus. In 1978, he was one of the co-founders of Studio Alchimia and developed so-called “Banal Design”, a critical term for things that are over-designed. This term was developed to create awareness of the industrial design of mundane objects and to improve the trivial as high culture.

Objects of everyday use such as clothes pegs, irons, and carpet sweepers are given decorative elements to accentuate them, make them alien, and combine them into new objects. His exhibition “L´Ogetto Banale” held as part of the Venice Biennale in 1980 and organized together with Paola Navone, Franco Raggi, and Daniela Puppa, received acclaim. In addition, the term “banal design” is also used for the anonymous industrial design of mass consumer goods which only barely meet consumers’ needs.

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Mendini became famous for his re-designs of furniture classics and Cappellini’s “Poltrona Proust” armchair. His list of clients includes Swatch, Zanotta, FSB, Abet Laminati, Driade and Venini. But Mendini has produced some outstanding architectural designs as well. His most famous buildings include Paradise Tower in Hiroshima (1989), Groningen Museum (1994) and the Villa Comunale in Naples (1998).

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In the 1970’s, Mendini was one of the key figures of radical design movement, joining the Studio Alchimia as a partner where he worked with Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi. In 1982 he co-founded Domus Academy, the first postgraduate design school.

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Currently he runs his own practice in Milan, the Atelier Mendini, together with his brother Francesco Mendini.

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