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Phaidon's Monograph on Ettore Sottsass

A comprehensive review of the iconic Italian designer's work

by David Graver in Design on 09 May 2014

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As the mastermind behind vibrant, eccentric furniture—not to mention the iconic Olivetti ‘Valentine’ typewriter—Italy's Ettore Sottsass established himself as one of the most important contributors to the Postmodernist movement. This famed founder of the Memphis Group brought wild imagination to ceramics, lighting and even vast architectural structures. The depth and breadth of his decades-spanning work altered pre-conceived notions that function outweighs design, and continues to influence and inspire to this day. His legacy and sheer talent are evident in Phaidon Press' 500-page tome to the man, authored by Sottsass expert Philippe Thomé. Chronologically unfolding, each chapter addresses a period within Sottsass' illustrious career and explores every discipline in which the designer flourished. All of it is accented by 800 illustrations and never-before-published photographs taken directly from the Sottsass archive.

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Thomé's expertise provides great insight into the mindset of Sottsass—especially since the author wrote his doctorate thesis on the creator back in 1991 and has continued with extensive research since. With its chronological structure, readers can explore solely based on periods of interest in Sottsass' career; or commence start to finish, reading it as a full biography. Additionally, five essays accompany the text, each written by experts in specific fields wherein Sottsass worked (including Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum). The book is incredibly comprehensive; guiding with facts, flourishes and a strong narrative voice.

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The book itself stands as a piece of art, beautifully designed from the bright bifold cover to all that lays within. The drawings and sketches falling between multi-colored indicator tabs reveal process and finished products—with variation between glossy and matte pages. Photography turns to industrial design, architecture yields to furniture, graphic design graces many pages. Sottsass did it all and Thomé presents it all in a beautiful fashion. As one of the most significant visionaries in the field, Sottsass cannot go unstudied—and with this book, it's a delight to do so.

Phaidon's hardcover "Sottsass" is available on Amazon for $98.

Photos by David Graver

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