Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass (1917 - 2007) is one of the most significant figures in post-war Italian design.

Sottsass was born in Innsbruck and grew up in Milan where his father worked as an architect. He studied architecture at the Politecnico di Torino and graduated in 1939, founding his own architectural and industrial design studio in Milan in 1948.

In 1956 Sottsass was employed as a design consultant for Olivetti, manufacturers of office equipment and furniture. Here he applied his distinctive pop sensibility to a range of functional objects, from the first Italian mainframe computer (for which he received the 1960 Compasso d'Oro) to the bright red, plastic, portable Olivetti Valentine typewriter - now recognised as an icon of twentieth century design.

During the 1960s and 70s Sottsass continued to work for Olivetti while producing a range of boldly sculptural and brightly coloured ceramic scupltural objects that anticipated the aesthetic of the Memphis Group. He also collaborated with avant garde and experimental design studios such as Superstudio and Archizoom. This progressive and often political trajectory culminated in the foundation of the Memphis Group, a collaborative association of artists, designers and architects assembled by Sottsass in 1981.

Alongside his participation in Memphis Group projects, Sottsass founded the design consultancy Sottsass Associati. HIs exceptional body of work ranges from architecture and interior schemes and furniture, lighting and product design to artworks, ceramics and jewellery - all of which continue to inspire generations of artists and designers.

His works are held in the permanent collections of MOMA and he was awarded the Sir Misha Black award in 1999.

Read Ettore Sottsass' obituary.


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