RIP Ettore Sottsass (1917 – 2007)

Unidentified photograph of Ettore Sottsass

Carlton Cabinet (1981) – Ettore Sottsass

Invitation to the first Memphis presentation, Sept 18 1981,

graphics by Luciano Paccagnella.
image sourced here

Ettore Sottsass Olivetti Valentine, first released on Valentine’s Day 1969.

Ettore Sottsass (14 September 1917 – 31 December 2007) was an Innsbruck-born Italian architect and designer of the late 20th century. He founded the Memphis Group and was a member briefly flirted with the Situationist International for a (very) short time. He was also connected to the radical design movement. His best-known product is the 1969 Olivetti Valentine typewriter. His 1981 “Carlton Cabinet” was to many people their first de facto exposure to postmodernism.

Sottsass founded the Memphis Group, an influential postmodern Italian design and architecture movement of the 1980s. Memphis explored a visual language outside of the limiting canons of “good taste,” blurring the boundaries between “high culture” and mass-produced “ordinary” consumer goods.

Radical design developed in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It continued the tradition of using new materials and bold colours that began with Pop Art but also drew on historical styles such as Art Deco, Kitsch, and Surrealism. The main exponents of Radical Design were small groups of architects and designers who questioned Modernism and rejected mass-consumer culture. Key groups and designers of the Radical style include Superstudio, Archizoom Associati, UFO, Gruppo Strum, and Ettore Sottsass.

4 thoughts on “RIP Ettore Sottsass (1917 – 2007)

  1. suburbanlife

    Oh, Jan – that Olivetti Valentine is a thing of beauty, I have never seen one in real life, which is good because it causes envy and larcenous desires in me. The Memphis furniture is so sculptural that It would be almost a sin to use it for practical purposes, as in the case of the cabinett. It would drive me crazy with the aesthetic possibilities of storage – but if one did not see this type of design as an aesthetic straight-jacket, great opportunity for playing with design coherence and discord. Some Kitschy juxtapositions might be fun to create. G

  2. jahsonic

    He was one of my design heroes. Follow this link for a good Youtube video of Sottsass’s work.

    As Design Addict correctly states: The contribution of Sottsass to the history of design certainly goes beyond his participation in the Memphis movement which, although it was important, was only one of the aspects of his work. In my write-up I merely wanted to stress the importance of the Memphis movement in breaking into the mainstream, of course Sottsass’s work was very sui generis.

  3. jahsonic

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your corrections and pleased to meet you. Thanks for your wonderful site and your continued interest in Guy Debord and the SI. Your pages have been the first to consult when I first discovered the SI.

    I’ve added a page for you at my wiki here, please feel free to edit.


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