written by:
May 13, 2010

Italian designer and architect Alessandro Mendini, born in Milan in 1931, joined forces with the Italian design factory Alessi in the late 1970s as a kind of Postmodernist design mentor for the brand, which was established in 1921 as a small metalworking firm and soon became known for its industrial pieces. Having previously headed up the magazines Casabella, Modo and Domus, Mendini—who designed the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands and Italy’s Omegna Forum—is best-known in the Alessi milieu for his Mendini T&C service and his Mendini TCT service, which he calls “the joker in the pack.” Still actively designing, Mendini refers to the projects from the studio he runs with his brother, Atelier Mendini, as “an ongoing puzzle that is never completed.”

In collaboration with Museo Alessi, Mendini is curating and designing “Oggetti e Progetti,” a retrospective dedicated to the last 30 years of Italian design for Die Neue Sammlung, the International Design Museum in Munich, specifically focusing on Alessi’s contributions through the years. Credited by the curators of Die Neue Sammlung as “instrumental in securing the success of Postmodernism,” Mendini has selected an array of Alessi designs, sketches and prototypes ranging mostly from the 1970s through the aughts, on display from May 21 through September 19.

The stainless-steel Fruit Bowl 370, produced in 1952 by the Ufficio Tecnico Alessi, the company’s design hub. The bowl is still in production today, and its inclusion in the exhibition suggests a relationship between the bowl’s earlier, mid-century lines
The stainless-steel Fruit Bowl 370, produced in 1952 by the Ufficio Tecnico Alessi, the company’s design hub. The bowl is still in production today, and its inclusion in the exhibition suggests a relationship between the bowl’s earlier, mid-century lines to later Alessi forms.
1 / 12
Designer Richard Sapper, born in Munich in 1932 and a designer of ships and watches, executed a bold-lined sketch of an espresso machine for Alessi in 1978.
Designer Richard Sapper, born in Munich in 1932 and a designer of ships and watches, executed a bold-lined sketch of an espresso machine for Alessi in 1978.
2 / 12
Sapper’s resulting stacked, three-piece espresso machine, in stainless steel, is now in the permanent collection at MoMA, gifted by Alessi to the museum.
Sapper’s resulting stacked, three-piece espresso machine, in stainless steel, is now in the permanent collection at MoMA, gifted by Alessi to the museum.
3 / 12
Different variations of the espresso machine are abstracted by Sapper’s wooden models of the 1978 design.
Different variations of the espresso machine are abstracted by Sapper’s wooden models of the 1978 design.
4 / 12
Pritzker Prize–winning Italian architect Aldo Rossi (1931–1997), who designed among many other buildings the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, sketched his La Conica espresso machine (1980–1983) in 1984 as a haven for children returning home from school.
Pritzker Prize–winning Italian architect Aldo Rossi (1931–1997), who designed among many other buildings the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, sketched his La Conica espresso machine (1980–1983) in 1984 as a haven for children returning home from school.
5 / 12
Introduced four years after La Conica, Rossi’s La Cupola espresso maker borrowed very literally from his background as an architect. The sketch of La Cupola, from 1987, shows the piece as a purely architectural element among its classical, inspirational b
Introduced four years after La Conica, Rossi’s La Cupola espresso maker borrowed very literally from his background as an architect. The sketch of La Cupola, from 1987, shows the piece as a purely architectural element among its classical, inspirational brethren.
6 / 12
The 9093 kettle, conceived by architect Michael Graves in 1985, was the first item by an American to be included in Alessi’s catalogue. With its telltale ’80s Deco-revival accents and bird whistle, the kettle remains Alessi’s best-selling item.
The 9093 kettle, conceived by architect Michael Graves in 1985, was the first item by an American to be included in Alessi’s catalogue. With its telltale ’80s Deco-revival accents and bird whistle, the kettle remains Alessi’s best-selling item.
7 / 12
A holiday gift from Michael Graves to company head Alberto Alessi in 1995, this original sketch denotes 750,000 sales of the 9093 kettle.
A holiday gift from Michael Graves to company head Alberto Alessi in 1995, this original sketch denotes 750,000 sales of the 9093 kettle.
8 / 12
Designer Riccardo Dalisi, born in Potenza in 1931, anthropomorphized samples of his Neapolitan coffee maker, finished in 1987 after nine years (and 200 prototypes) in the making. The concept for his “Ricerca Napoletana” (“return to Neapolitan”) is said to
Designer Riccardo Dalisi, born in Potenza in 1931, anthropomorphized samples of his Neapolitan coffee maker, finished in 1987 after nine years (and 200 prototypes) in the making. The concept for his “Ricerca Napoletana” (“return to Neapolitan”) is said to draw on historical, anthropological and poetic sources, and evokes the classic, pre-1950s stovetop drip-brew coffee maker.
9 / 12
Juan Navarro Baldeweg, born in Santander, Spain, in 1939, almost completely abstracted his tea and coffee set for Alessi in a 2003 sketch. In reality, each piece of the service, produced the same year, is surrounded by multicolored laser-cut metal. Of the
Juan Navarro Baldeweg, born in Santander, Spain, in 1939, almost completely abstracted his tea and coffee set for Alessi in a 2003 sketch. In reality, each piece of the service, produced the same year, is surrounded by multicolored laser-cut metal. Of the set, Mendini remarked that its lines deal with “lights and shadows, projections and surfaces, based on the abstraction of informal calligraphies.”
10 / 12
Appearing as a line drawing of a fruit basket, then crude cells seen from above, this sketch by Kazuyo Sejima and Rue Nishizawa of SANAA depicts their Alessi tea and coffee service in the simplest terms. The actual set reads as silver bubbles or fruit, ea
Appearing as a line drawing of a fruit basket, then crude cells seen from above, this sketch by Kazuyo Sejima and Rue Nishizawa of SANAA depicts their Alessi tea and coffee service in the simplest terms. The actual set reads as silver bubbles or fruit, each lid topped by small “stems” of silver. Mendini calls it “an unlikely basket of high and subtle poetry.”
11 / 12
Sejima and Nishizawa, who designed the 21st Century Museum in Kanazawa, Japan, and the New Museum in New York, drew their tea and coffee towers as cartoonish sets of large and small tea and coffee pots.
Sejima and Nishizawa, who designed the 21st Century Museum in Kanazawa, Japan, and the New Museum in New York, drew their tea and coffee towers as cartoonish sets of large and small tea and coffee pots.
12 / 12
The stainless-steel Fruit Bowl 370, produced in 1952 by the Ufficio Tecnico Alessi, the company’s design hub. The bowl is still in production today, and its inclusion in the exhibition suggests a relationship between the bowl’s earlier, mid-century lines
The stainless-steel Fruit Bowl 370, produced in 1952 by the Ufficio Tecnico Alessi, the company’s design hub. The bowl is still in production today, and its inclusion in the exhibition suggests a relationship between the bowl’s earlier, mid-century lines to later Alessi forms.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016
the garden inside concrete dining pavilion indoor outdoor custom cabinets thermador dishwasher refrigerator
A skylit conservatory doubles as a verdant dining parlor in Sonoma County, California.
April 28, 2016
Details of the Calico collection.
Calico Wallpaper founders Nick and Rachel Cope showed us through their home in our March Issue, now step inside their studio.
April 28, 2016
william krisel pow 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
April 27, 2016
Dwell on Design and designjunction at ArtBeam
It's all part of Dwell on Design + designjunction's three-day event, featuring a program of talks chock-full of leading figures in design, architecture, urbanism, and beyond—coming up May 13-15 at ArtBeam in New York.
April 27, 2016
seattles mariners floating house prefab facade exterior fiber cement panels
A prefabricated floating home drops anchor in the Pacific Northwest.
April 27, 2016
royan treatment living room stone fireplace vintage new furnishings
French designer Florence Deau effortlessly mixes the old with the new.
April 27, 2016
modern netherlands 13 noordeinde schoolhouse parquet herringbone floors stove
Take a lesson from this school-turned-home.
April 27, 2016
The sidewalks of Copacabana in Rio De Janero, Brazil, designed by Roberto Burle Marx
The Jewish Museum in New York City takes it outside with a celebration of the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
April 26, 2016
Waterfront home in Belvedere, California
A 1960s home infested with powderpost beetles had to be sacrificed before this this Zen-inspired house could happen.
April 26, 2016
dialogue house
At the base of Echo Mountain in Phoenix, a geometric home by Wendell Burnette opens up to the surrounding desert landscape.
April 26, 2016
street smarts kitchen full view
A creative couple transforms an old Toronto storefront in Dundas West into a home and studio.
April 26, 2016
hald strand
This architect thinks of everything for his summer escape, pizza oven included.
April 26, 2016
gans turin residence living room
Thanks to a contemporary interior that she’s been updating for a decade, modern architect Abigail Turin has learned to love her traditional 1925 San Francisco home.
April 25, 2016
131
Johannesburg-based design studio Counterspace was founded in 2014 by young architecture graduates Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar. Their projects are collaborative, research-led investigations into possible futures and ideas of otherness in Johannesburg.
April 25, 2016
through living room
A second-story addition and a new indoor-outdoor focus revive a nondescript house in L.A.
April 25, 2016
Modern living room with Flexform sofa and Jens Fager candelabra
An Antwerp home blurs the boundaries between art and design.
April 25, 2016
hillside haven  1
This backyard is its own modern retreat in the Berkeley Hills.
April 25, 2016
Two studios flanks a central volume at this home in Mexico
Art and life meet in the middle at a family retreat in Central Mexico.
April 24, 2016
natural instinct swedish family home kitchen table unfold pendants muuto lilla aland chairs stolab
With Alvar Aalto in mind, a renowned Swedish architect crafts a serene home on a long-held family plot.
April 24, 2016
clearing the table coffee tables boxinbox philippe starck glas italia storage
A half-century later, furniture designers are catching up to painter Yves Klein’s visionary Table Bleue.
April 23, 2016
A deck looks out onto the beach in Australia
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 23, 2016
against the grain sustainable hudson new york home black walnut flooring furniture
An architect-turned-falconer considers animals and nature when designing his own home.
April 23, 2016
Aerial view of Copenhagen
@littlemycph finds symmetry in buildings and streets.
April 22, 2016
Josué Azor retuned to his family’s plot to build a new home, designed to resist future quakes and decorated with custom artwork and furniture.
In the wake of a catastrophic earthquake, a young Haitian photographer builds anew.
April 22, 2016
backyard with outdoor shower concrete pavers and wood fence
A hillside Virginia home located on a notch between two ridges is fun for the whole family.
April 22, 2016
Twin houses in Canada
Twin cabins rise together on charming Chaleur Bay in New Brunswick.
April 22, 2016
toy story industrial kitchen los angeles renovation toy lofts brass shelves steel wall hayneedle pot rack verona range
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 22, 2016
pour it on facade concrete beam roof lanai porch
The unforgiving landscape of the island couldn't stop this architect.
April 21, 2016
big reveal living room 3
Architect Isay Weinfeld creates an epic home in São Paulo.
April 21, 2016