Alessandro Mendini

  • Design

    UNTIL RECENTLY, THE PHILOSOPHIES, behind both architecture and industrial design rested on concepts of measure and of geometric space. Even the schools of the Bauhaus and Ulm—which stressed the primacy of function, ergonomics, and technology—transformed everything into numbers and plans. In short, until now, the concept of three-dimensional space was the fundamental element in a design’s genesis. But things are no longer that way. Other values and issues have taken the upper hand. Many other disciplines, having no direct connection to design, are offering up great, innovative contributions,

  • Design

    THE BIENNALE IS REOPENING its pavilions, and in Venice they are once again speaking the Esperanto of art. But the general hubbub masks the more important, problematic, and urgent discourse that addresses the city of Venice itself, the grand, distinguished site for this old, extremely old, too old exhibition. It is as if everyone were talking about a suit, abstractly saying that it is beautiful or ugly, without noticing the person wearing it. The Biennale is the suit, and Venice is the person. But is it a living or dead person? A city or an “ex-city”? What is Venice today? What other characterization

  • Design

    WHEN I FURNISH MY dream house, I have the exhilarating choice from all styles: Assyrian to Egyptian, Renaissance to Neoclassical, floral to Cubist, or a combination of elements from all these and others.

    And when you visit my dream house, how can you say whether it is beautiful or ugly? You can pronounce your judgment, but certainly you will not be judging my house; you will be judging my taste.

    Taste, however, is a feeling—a personal, intimate, and instinctive quality. It is a way for me to express my fantasies, my imagination, my memories. That’s why I can love something you find extremely ugly,

  • Design

    PROBABLY MOST OF US live in the contemporary city, where we generally have only one house or apartment, most often a small one. Until now we have usually designed the interiors of these houses and apartments in a unified kind of way, according to the Modern dictate of standardizing all the rooms of the home, making them conform to a single image: a single color for the walls, a single material for the floors, only a small number of different types of lamp, matching curtains, matching doors, and so on. All this has been common practice for the last twenty years and longer. Now, however, Postmodern

  • Design

    AN UNDERLYING ISSUE IN DESIGN—previously only present as a kind of ghost haunting it—has come up to the surface: who is more powerful, the designer (or artist, or inventor), the merchant, or the buyer? In fact we see this drama not only in design, but on a number of fronts: it seems shocking even to bring up the question in the context of the arts, where the hierarchy has always been so idealized, but in the age of the blockbuster and of the consumer it is a question better not avoided. In the mundane world we read of merchandisers and shoppers acting out a constant tug-of-war, the merchandiser

  • In pursuit of unrealism.

    A CONSTANT TENSION EXISTS BETWEEN the “realistic” and the “artistic” aspects of design, and it is absolutely vital that the designer take a stand on this dynamic. We all know that design is more than just a switch for the industrial conveyor belt. Design matters insofar as it is a vessel for speculative thought about civilization, insofar as it shows an anthropological consciousness about those for whom it exists, insofar as it reveals its role. Perhaps, in fact, we should think of the design object not as a thing but as an existence that is made, an essence that is created, the creature of an

  • Design

    IT IS TIME TO PAY ATTENTION to a phenomenon currently occurring in many parts of the world, in Japan, Spain, the United States, Italy, France, and elsewhere: a young generation of designers is abandoning the reassuring certainties of the design language that prevails today, and following unproven, twisting paths through a terrain that includes not only contemporary materials and technologies but also traces of, for example, kitsch, nature, both Donatello and Freud, the Orient, and religion. Theirs is not a narrow idea of time, but a broad vision of the relationship between past, present, and

  • Design

    A LITTLE OVER A DECADE remains until the year 2000, and the question understandably arises of the types of objects, environments, and ways of living with which we will greet the new century. In April, an exhibition entitled “Nouvelles tendances: les avant-gardes de la fin du siècle (New tendencies: the avant-gardes of the end of the century), one attempt to address this question, will open at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. The title proposes an interesting paradox: the conjunction of the terms ”avant-garde,“ with all it promises of newness and innovation, and ”fin de siècle," with its

  • the chameleon fakes for real.

    NATURAL MATERIALS SUCH AS IRON, ceramic, or wood are conceptually very different from synthetic materials like plastics, and the difference suggests thoughts about design invention. Natural materials, with their grand historical traditions, have strong identities, and impose certain rules or at least expectations as to how they should be treated. The new materials can be made to order for the requirements of the specific object being designed. They are devoid of identity—manipulable, up for anything. They represent a continuum of infinite possibilities. There was a time when the artisan had to

  • paint necessarily so.

    ENTERING A DESIGN SHOW these days, one is sometimes unsure whether one has strayed instead into an exhibition of art. A crossover of the design object with the art object has arisen, reflecting a new phenomenon, especially in Europe, and more especially in Italy: the emergence of what might be called “pictorial design,” or, and it’s the same thing, of “designed pictures.” Many designers today seem to want to paint more than to design. Strictly speaking, the two terms are contradictory. To design is to realize useful objects whose form is affected by conditions of their intended function, by the

  • antiques regain their youth.

    AN IMPORTANT ITALIAN AUCTION this fall features, at very high prices, furniture and objects designed by 21 contemporary designers and architects, including Emilio Ambasz, Gae Aulenti, Mario Botta, Peter Eisenman, Hans Hollein, Rafael Moneo, SITE, Ettore Sottsass, and Robert Venturi, among others. All these pieces were shown in the 1985 Milan Triennale, in a section of the show titled “Le affinità elettive” (Elective affinities). Highly crafted, mostly in wood, the works are among the most perfectly realized exemplars of post- and neomodern currents. Originally, they were slated to proceed from