(Innsbruck - Austria, 1917)

Ettore Sottsass: portrait

Ettore Sottsass is an Italian architect and designer of the late 20th century.
He founded the Memphis Group.
Originally an architect, Sottsass became a consulting designer for typewriter manufacturer Olivetti.
Ettore Sottsass is one of the leading members of the ‘Memphis’ group founded in 1981 with Barbara Radice as public relations/art director. Memphis was a reaction against the slick, black humorless design of the 1970's. It was a time of minimalism with such products as typewriters, buildings, cameras, cars and furniture all seeming to lack personality and individualism. In contrast the Memphis Group offered bright, colourful, shocking pieces. The colours they used contrasted the dark blacks and browns of European furniture. Their main aim was to reinvigorate the Radical Design movement. The group intended to develop a new creative approach to design. Sottsass and Memphis were out to make a statement and to break down the barriers between high class and low class. To some, this concept would take a lifetime to happen but to others it offered freedom.
The Austrian born designer, Ettore Sottsass was described as ‘a forward looking designer.’ He began his career by studying architecture at Turin Polytechnic. He was a student there for 4 years and proved his talent as he wrote articles on art and interior design and later received an honorary degree from the Royal College of Art, in London.
On leaving College, Sottsass joined the Italian army for 3 years. After finishing his army duties, he worked for a group of architects and before long set up his own Milan based office in 1947, which he called ‘The Studio’. Some of his famous designs are, with Knoll in 1983, East Collection and Mandarin Chair in 1986.
Many of his designs are on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Sottsass eventually teamed up with Olivetti as a design consultant and worked with him for over twenty years. While working with Olivetti, Sottsass made many new and different things. Among others, in 1959 he designed the first Italian computer and later several peripheral units and computer system as well as typewriters including Praxis, Tekna, Editor and Valentine.
In 1993 he received an honorary degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and in 1994 he received the IF Design Award Kopfe from the Indrustrie Forum Design in Hannover. The same year The Centre National d'Art et de Culture George Pompidou in Paris Sponsored as an extensive retrospective exhibit of his works. He was awarded Design Plus in 1998 in Frankfurt Messe for Marutomi collection.