Sottsass, Ettore

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Sottsass, Ettore (1917– ). Australian-born architect, active in Italy. He established his own firm in Milan (1947), designing artefacts, exhibitions, and interiors. Among his works were office-machines for Olivetti, but he gradually turned away from conventional Modernism on the grounds that the only design not valid for today is that which claims to be ‘timeless’ and has pretensions to some sort of moral mission, e.g. the Bauhaus philosophy. As a result, his work has become eclectic, drawing on many styles and periods, as his rejection of Rationalism became more complete, especially by the time he founded the Memphis Design Co-op, Milan, 1981. As the name might suggest, Egyptianizing, Neo-Classical, and aspects of Art Deco are brought together in a synthesis, a hybrid, that even draws on trashier elements of popular ‘culture’ (e.g. Rock ‘n’ Roll) that could be described as parody or as Kitsch, so he has been classed as a Post-Modernist. Sottsass has been successful in merging consumer and popular culture with High Design. Among his works the INA-CASA housing development at Carmagnola, near Turin, and Meina, Lake Maggiore (1952–4); the Galleria del Cavallino, Venice (1956); the Memphis furniture (from 1981); and the various projects for Nonsense Architecture and Pornographic Architecture (1973–7) deserve note. Sparke, in her critiques, has detected ‘antidesign’ and a ‘blurring of the boundaries between design practice and design criticism’ giving birth to something new she terms ‘metadesign’ in Sottsass's output. Jencks (1971) has identified Sottsass as one of the Supersensualists.


Anno Domini, xli/6 (June1971), 345–7, and xlii/1 (Jan.1972), 18–21;
Bure (1987);
Burney (1994);
Cable (1985);
Kalman (1994);
Malave (1985a);
Radice (1993);
Sottsass (1976, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1993a, 1994, 1995, 1997);
Sparke (ed.) (1982);
Jane Turner (1996)