Alessandro Mendini (born 16 August 1931 in Milan) is an Italian designer and architect. He played an important part in the development of Italian design. He also worked, aside from his artistic career, for Casabella, Modo and Domus magazines.
His design has been characterized by his strong interest in mixing different cultures and different forms of expression; he creates graphics, furniture, interiors, paintings and architectures and wrote several articles and books; he is also renowned as an enthusiastic member of jury in architectural competition for young designers. He also teaches at the University of Milan.
Mendini graduated from Politecnico di Milano in 1959 with a degree in Architecture. He was the editor-in-chief of a magazine from 1980 to 1985 and changed the landscape of modern design through his quintessential works of postmodernism, such as the Proust Armchair and the Groninger Museum. Just as works of the Renaissance period expressed human values and sensibilities, Mendini has contributed to bringing into the heart of design those “values” and “sensibilities” that have been eclipsed by commercialism and functionalism. He collaborates with leading international brands including Cartier, Hermes, and Swarovski.
Currently he runs his own practice in Milan, the Atelier Mendini, together with his brother Francesco Mendini.
In the seventies he was one of the main personalities of the Radical design movement. In 1979 he joined the Studio Alchimia as a partner and here he worked with Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi. In 1982 he co-founded Domus Academy, the first postgraduate design school.
As architect, he designed several buildings; for example the Alessi residence in Omegna, Italy; the theater complex "Teatrino della Bicchieraia" in the Tuscan city of Arezzo; the Forum Museum of Omegna, a memorial tower in Hiroshima, Japan; the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands and the Arosa Casino in Switzerland.
His work in product design was influential in the sense that it pushed the boundaries of what products could be. A notable example is his Lassú chair from 1974, a chair built on top of a pyramid structure, which forgoes conventional notions of function. Mendini was addressing the domestic object as a conduit for spirituality, an idea reinforced by his ritualised burning of the chair, photographed for placement on the cover of Casabella in 1975.
He has been awarded several international prizes, including the Compasso d'oro in 1979 and in 1981. He holds an honorary title from the Architectural League of New York as well as the title of "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres" from the French Republic.
- (Italian) Alessandro Mendini - Museo di Omegna, in "Area" n. 45, July/Aug. 1999, pp. 126–129 Online version