Culture / Design

Ettore Sottsass at Venice Architecture Biennale

The work of the vibrant postmodern designer will run alongside the Venice Architecture Biennale, focusing on his designs for the Italian manufacturer Olivetti.

Jun 04, 2016 | By Staff Writer

The vibrant and exciting work of Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass matched his life, where he brushed past names like Bob Dylan, Picasso, Jack Kerouac and Hemingway. Running alongside the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, Sottsass’ work will be the subject of an exhibition titled “Sottsass Olivetti Synthesis” – held in the Olivetti showroom from May 28 to August 21. The exhibition will focus specifically on the designs that Sottsass did for the Italian manufacturer.


Color and eschewing old forms was Sottsass’ forte, and that all came together with his creation of the Memphis group – an Italian design and architecture collective that aimed to use postmodern techniques and pop-art influences to bring about innovative new conceptions. Beyond that, he was also a photographer, and was constantly taking pictures of the world around him.



Around 60 pieces that Sottsass made for Olivetti will be on show, especially those from the groundbreaking Synthesis 45 office system presented in 1973. These will include furniture items and original documents, as well as previously unseen and little-known designs. The designer’s desks, chairs and modular partitions are all featured, as well as bookshelves, filing cabinets and accessories like coat stands, umbrella stands, ashtrays, pen holders, pencils and telephone stands. All these are arty, but combine functional rigor with modular design – a revolution for the office spaces of the time.


This exhibition comes as a precursor to the 100th anniversary of Sotsass’ birth, and is the first in a trilogy of showcases dedicated to the designer due to be held at the showroom in Venice between 2016 and 2018. In April 2017, it’ll head for the Museu da Casa Brasileira, in Sao Paulo, Brazil – where it’ll continue to put his artistic eccentricity on wide display.

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