Ettore Sottsass

1917 — 2007

The famous Italian designer and architect, Ettore Sottsass was one of the main visionaries of radical design, a founding member of Memphis design group which boomed at the Salone del Mobile in 1981. He designed the first Italian computer, Elea 9003 for Olivetti, and received Compasso d’Oro award for it in 1959. Among other iconic projects by Sottsass are the bestselling 1960s typewriter Valentine and the Malpensa airport in Milan.

1935-1939. Sottsass studies architecture at the Politecnico di Torino in Turin. During World War II he serves in the Italian military and spends some of the war in a prison and then in a labor camp in Yugoslavia.

1945-1946. Together with his father Sottsass workes at residential projects in the architectural studio of Giuseppe Pagano.

1956. Trip to New York and employment in George Nelson’s studio. Journey across the USA.

1958. Sottsass is back in Italy, where he becomes design consultant in Olivetti.

1959. The design of the Elea 9003 computer for Olivetti wins Sottass Compasso d’Oro award.

1961. Journey across India. 

1964-1965. Sottsass designs the Valentine typewriter, winner of Delta di Ore award, manages its international advertising campaign. 

1966-1967. Collaboration with Poltronova furniture brand begins. The designer creates a vast series of ceramic vases inspired by his Indian travels. 

1967. Sottsass and Allen Ginsberg co-found the Planeta Fresco literary magazine.

1970. Lectures in the UK and in Japan. The Royal College of Art in London grants Sottsass an honorary doctoral degree.

1972. Collaboration with Alessi begins. Sottsass takes part in Italy, the New Domestic Landscape, an exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1973-1975. Sottsass participates in the creation of Global Tools Group: a multidisciplinary experimental programme of design education. It was conceived as a diffuse system of laboratories in Florence, Milan and Naples promoting the study and use of natural materials and their behavioural characteristics with the support of media and aimed to establish an alternative relation with the Italian Industry.

1976. A grand retrospective exhibition of Ettore Sottsass’ works traveling to Berlin, Paris, Jerusalem and Sidney. 

1980. Sottsass Associati is established.

1981. The Memphis Group is founded by Ettore Sottsass. Other members include Marco Zanini, Aldo Cibic, Matteo Thun, Michele de Lucchi, Martine Bedin, Shiro Kuramata, Masanori Umeda, Nathalie du Pasquier.

1985. Sottsass leaves the Memphis group and returns to architectural practice and industrial design in Sottsass Associati. 

2000. Malpensa airport is constructed in Milan.

2001. Memphis Remembered exhibition in the Design Museum in London

2007. Ettore Sottsass: Work in Progress exhibition in the Design Museum in London.

2008-2009. Ettore Sottsass et le design italien exhibition in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 

Design Pieces by Ettore Sottsass are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Museum in Stockholm.