Italian Architect and Product Designer, Ettore Sottsass was known for his avant-garde creations; challenging traditional design norms, embracing bold colours, unconventional shapes, and a sense of playfulness that shook off the functionality and clean lines of the 50s and 60s, and the minimal glamour of the 70s.
In this week's blog post, we deep-dive into Sottsass's career, aesthetic and the design movement he cultivated, which would go on to epitomise the essence of 80s design.
Ettore Sottsass' early influence
Ettore Sottsass was born on September 14, 1917, in Innsbruck, Austria, to an Italian Architect father and an Austrian mother. This exposure to the world of design from an early age undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping Sottsass's future career, as he went on to study architecture at the Turin Polytechnic University, graduating in 1939.
The Memphis Group Movement
In the 1980s, Ettore Sottsass co-founded the Memphis Group, a collective of designers and architects who challenged the established design principles of the time. Rejecting minimalism and embracing boldness, the group aimed to infuse everyday design with vitality and excitement. Sottsass played a pivotal role in shaping the group's aesthetic, contributing his vibrant and unconventional designs. The Memphis style was characterized by vibrant colours, geometric patterns and asymmetrical forms.
Legacy and Influence
Through his iconic creations like the UltraFragola Mirror, Sottsass demonstrated his ability to merge art with functionality. Inspiring designers to challenge conventions, break free from the ordinary, and create objects that ignite the imagination, rather than simply to serve a functional purpose.
Watch this 2017 video from MOMA on the career of Ettore Sottsass, created to mark their exhibition: Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical:
Shop Ettore Sottsass designs:
The Ultrafragola mirror is often referred to as the 'Ettore Sottsass mirror,' which shows the piece’s distinct place in the designer’s work lexicon. The mirror was created for the interiors' company Poltronova in 1970, as part of the Mobili Grigi series of bedroom and living room objects and was the only piece to make it out of the prototype stage. Sottsass' vision was to create a piece that stimulated the senses and triggered conversations. According to the Sottsass, the piece is a homage to femininity - as the name, 'Ultrafragola' translates to 'ultimate strawberry' — invoking the sensuality in the piece from its colour and soft waves.
The Ultrafragola mirror is also a lamp. Turned off, the frame has a beautiful and shiny white opaline colour. Turned on, the frame gains a glowy and soft neon pink LED light colouration, visible both in the dark and in the light.