Ettore Sottsass is one of the most influential designers of the latter half of the twentieth century. His work for Alychima and Memphis steered away from the linear development of Modernism and forever changed the way we think about design. Hailed as a 20th century Renaissance man, Sottsass was also an architect, painter, craftsman, philosopher, writer and photographer.
Sottsass had a successful career producing industrial designs for Adriano Olivetti, from typewriters and computers to office landscapes. He has also created remarkably unconventional consumer-oriented objects that challenged assumptions about the limits of “good taste.” Between 1981 and 1988, Sottsass and a small international group of designers calling themselves Memphis created nonconformist furniture – the iconic “Carlton” room divider is an example. Although intended for a luxury market and finely crafted, it is made of cheap plastic laminates rather than fine woods. The vivid colors and seemingly random interplay of solids and voids are reminiscent of avant-garde painting and sculpture. But underneath the surface brilliance is a logical structural system of real and implied equilateral triangles that is typical of Sottsass.
Born in Austria in 1917, Sottsass died at his home in Milan on New Year’s Eve in 2008.