Alessandro Mendini, an architect, designer and revolutionary creative mind. Our farewell to a design innovator

A keen observer of social evolution, Alessandro Mendini mixed history and psychology of each decade, observing the rapid changes that were taking place. He wanted to “give a soul” to the objects he designed, giving them anthropomorphic shapes that would bring them in the tragicomedy of life.

Anna G, collezione di piccoli utensili per la casa, Alessandro Mendini per Alessi

He always lived in Milan, where he was born on 16th August 1931. As a child, his dream was to become a cartoonist, but, driven by his family, he approached engineering studies. While he was studying architecture at Politecnico di Milano, he discovered a passion for literature and started writing for various magazines.

At home of the Boschi-Di Stefano family, from whom he inherited the beautiful house-museum designed by Piero Portaluppi in the Thirties, Mendini got to know the paintings of Morandi, Savinio, Tosi, Funi, Sironi, Carrà. As a young architect, he realized that he preferred canvas, cartoons, theoretic work to architectural design. He used to say that his teachers where futurism, De Chirico, Kandinsky, Czech Cubism.

Marinetti, mask by Alessandro Mendini in various metals and glazes, courtesy Studio Guastalla, Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

Alessandro Mendini will be remembered also for the countless objects he designed during his long career: the Proust armchair for Alchimia (1978), the bottle screw from the Anna G collection – one of the many small kitchen tools designed for Alessi – are very famous. He worked with the most prestigious companies, including Zanotta, Swatch, Philips, Venini, Bisazza, Cartier.

Proust Korea by Alessandro Mendini, 2015, courtesy Studio Guastalla, Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

In the Seventies he founded Alchimia, later he joined the Memphis Group and founded the Global Tools school aimed at stimulating spontaneous creativity in the creation of a design object. In 1989, along with his brother Francesco, he created the Atelier Mendini.

Seven, Cartier Foundation, 2013, lost wax bronze casting and marble base, courtesy Studio Guastalla, Arte Moderna e contemporanea

He designed many architectures worldwide and was tasked with urban renovations in Lugano, Rome, Naples, Incheon (South Korea, where he designed a new headquarters of Triennale di Milano). He received many awards, such as the Compasso d’Oro in 1979 and1981, the European Prize for Architecture in 2014, and he was appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in France.

Balla, mask by Alessandro Mendini in various metals and glazes, 2017, courtesy Studio Guastalla, Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

Alessandro Mendini passed away on 18th February 2019.

[text Giulia Bruno]