Mendini in progress

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Alessandro Mendini (class of 1931) has managed magazines (Casabella, Domus, Modo and Ollo), created cultural and innovative movements based on recovering and valorizing craftsmanship and on radical design and has designed important buildings world-wide. Architect, artist and designer, Mendini has worked in his atelier in Milan with his brother Francesco to create furniture, objects, stage designs and pictures. He was awarded the Compasso d’Oro and has received international awards in France and the United States.

Q. Zanotta still has furniture in its catalogue with a very special expressive and poetic mark that you designed back in the early 80’s. Thinking back on that period and how it continued with Zanotta Edizioni, what do you think you can generate next? 
A. I habitually and traditionally design very expressive furniture with a sense of quality craftsmanship. Even now, I am designing these types of things, which are part of Milan’s virtuous furniture and furnishing history that didn’t just start in the 30’s, but also earlier with Deco and Liberty. This is a broad linguistic preparation, which also includes my work from the Zabro period.

Q. Do you have an emblematic memory of past years beside Aurelio Zanotta? 
A. I fondly remember that he called me at times and said: “I created a piece of furniture that Mendini could sign,” and I was happy to do it.

Q. Have you ever seen pieces you designed in the homes of those who have chosen them? What type of person purchases furniture created by Mendini? 
A. My pieces of furniture are collector’s objects and are sought after by enthusiasts.

Q. Technological innovation and an inclination for “feeling” and intuition: how much do you identify with the 2 important components of a designer’s work? 
A. My work is expressive, my goal is poetry, narration and emotion. But these goals must be achieved with modern languages and so careful attention must be paid to all technical novelties and research materials, in addition to traditions.

Q. The notion of design is invading unsuspected fields, from nanotechnology to food, yachts and gas burners. Do you believe this is because the market wants it or because design adds something thrilling and functional at the same time, which allows people to live better? 
A. In its broadest sense, design is the process of formalising the world. Therefore, in the myriad of genres, needs and types, design is a part of everything and everything is a part of design. True design – both emotional and functional – is never adding something but is substance.

Q. The home as an area for emotions and a metaphor of existence. These words often appear in your writing on living. Which homes most express the present? 
A. Our current world is one of violence. If you look at reality objectively, you see harshness and cynicism before anything else. The home as a metaphor for good existence is utopianism, a mirage to look to knowing full well that it cannot be reached.


(interview with Alessandro Mendini for the online magazine Zanotta Happenings, 2008)