ARTPIL Profiles of the Arts

Photo Bruno Gecchelin
Ettore Sottsass
Designer / Architect

Sottsass (1917–2007) was an Austro-Italian designer and one of the most unconventional figures in twentieth-century design. He gained renown with his designs for the office equipment manufacturer Olivetti, for his poetic, minimalist sculptural objects, and as the leading figure of the Memphis design collective in the 1980s. Over the course of his long career, Sottsass moved between disciplines, leaving behind a fascinating oeuvre that is represented by many objects in the collection of the Vitra Design Museum.

His most famous works are his furniture designs for the Memphis group, which created a sensation and ushered in the postmodern aesthetic of the 1980s.

The shrill colors, patterns and forms of Memphis objects were inspired by motifs from everyday life, Pop culture and the non-European civilisations encountered by Sottsass during his extensive travels from the 1960s onward. This resulted in iconic objects like the Carlton bookcase (1981), the lamps Ashoka (1981) and Tahiti (1981), and the Tartar table (1985) – expressive objects that sought to communicate with the viewer and liberate themselves from a functionalist design approach.

[from Vitra Design Museum]

Ettore Sottsass
Designer / Architect

Sottsass (1917–2007) was an Austro-Italian designer and one of the most unconventional figures in twentieth-century design. He gained renown with his designs for the office equipment manufacturer Olivetti, for his poetic, minimalist sculptural objects, and as the leading figure of the Memphis design collective in the 1980s. Over the course of his long career, Sottsass moved between disciplines, leaving behind a fascinating oeuvre that is represented by many objects in the collection of the Vitra Design Museum.

His most famous works are his furniture designs for the Memphis group, which created a sensation and ushered in the postmodern aesthetic of the 1980s.

The shrill colors, patterns and forms of Memphis objects were inspired by motifs from everyday life, Pop culture and the non-European civilisations encountered by Sottsass during his extensive travels from the 1960s onward. This resulted in iconic objects like the Carlton bookcase (1981), the lamps Ashoka (1981) and Tahiti (1981), and the Tartar table (1985) – expressive objects that sought to communicate with the viewer and liberate themselves from a functionalist design approach.

[from Vitra Design Museum]