Alessandro Mendini obituary

Anarchic Alessi designer whose work helped shape the look of the 1980s

Playful is the word most often used to describe the work of Alessandro Mendini, the Italian designer, architect and editor, who has died aged 87. It is the quality you see in the apparently childlike simplicity of his drawings, with their bold, spiky ink lines, in his exuberant use of colour and in the way that he turned household objects into whimsical anthropomorphic creatures, such as his smiling Anna G corkscrew, one of Alessi’s bestselling products. Even in his architecture he sometimes seemed to be trying to create lifesize dolls’ houses. His best-known piece of furniture, the Proust armchair, is a baroque fantasy decorated with brushstrokes borrowed from the French pointillist painter Paul Signac.

But given the important part that he played in Italy’s “radical design” movement, anarchic, rather than playful, might be a better description of Mendini’s intentions. Even though he wore the green Loden overcoat that was the uniform of the Milanese bourgeoisie, Mendini loved to subvert conventional wisdoms about what we mean by design. He wanted to rescue it from the cult of functionalism, and show that objects could have more complex layers of meaning than simply signalling their purpose, or hinting at how new or expensive they were.

Continue reading...