alessandro mendini, the legendary italian designer and architect, has passed away at the age of 87. mendini was born in milan in 1931 and graduated in 1959. in the 1970s, along with andrea branzi and ettore sottsass, mendini became one of the figureheads of the radical design movement before joining studio alchimia in 1979. with alchima, he created objects, furniture, environments, paintings, installations, as well as architectural works. among his most significant projects during this period were the groningen museum and the reinvention of the alessi brand. he also co-founded domus academy, a private postgraduate design school in milan. in 1989, he opened atelier mendini with his brother francesco where he continued to work on new products and ideas.


in honor of the life and work of alessandro mendini, we revisit our meeting and conversation with the designer at his studio back in 2000, where he spoke about the media, the internet, his fears, and his favorite projects.

alessandro mendini obituary
the amuleto lamp for ramun | read more about the project on designboom here
(main image: portrait of alessandro mendini © designboom, 2000) 



designboom (DB): what is your best moment of the day?


alessandro mendini (AM): when I feel at peace with myself.


DB: what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?


AM: I listen to music from the orient, china, hong kong…


DB: do you listen to the radio?


AM: never.

alessandro mendini obituary
busstop, hannover, germany 1994



DB: what books do you have on your bedside table?


AM: I don’t read at night, I read a lot of books, 15 or 20 at the same time. they are mostly criticism, psychology, new age, and philosophy.


DB: do you read design magazines?


AM: yes, many.


DB: as an expert on publications on design, since you were the editor in chief of domus, how do you judge the current panorama of printed magazines? do you think that internet will take the place of the printed page


AM: magazines serve to give information. today magazines contain a lot of information, but without a soul. they don’t have a message. they simply give information, and I make do with this. printed magazines will survive — I say this because I don’t know how to use the internet…even if I like computers. this past summer, I took computer and oil painting lessons, just for a balance. the internet will certainly be extremely important and bring about a huge revolution.

alessandro mendini obituary
AM o1 by alessandro mendini for sanwacompany, presented at eurocucina 2018
read more about the project on designboom here



DB: newspapers? where do you get news from?


AM: I am a sort of information kleptomaniac. I get it everywhere — from newspapers, books, trips, talking with people, like right now. (laughs)


DB: do you notice how women are dressing? do you have any preferences?


AM: certainly, and men too. I’m not such a good dresser, but I like well-dressed people — I mean those who can transform through makeup and clothes into themselves. choosing something to wear is like doing a self portrait.


DB: what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?


AM: I don’t think I have any prejudices. I dress simply, without preconceived ideas. I wouldn’t wear costumes from the 1700’s…I don’t know how to dress up in a costume.


DB: do you have any pets?


AM: I have a guest who is a cat. he’s not mine but he often comes to visit. we’re friends…

alessandro mendini obituary
‘anna g.’ kitchentools for alessi



DB: where do you work on your designs and projects?


AM: I design in my studio, at home, and at my country house — but since my designs are based on a theory, on a literary thought, I deal with this aspect in the waiting rooms of airports, for example.


DB: who would you like to design something for?


AM: I would like to make places of worship for any religion.

alessandro mendini obituary
‘moka alessi’ is fashioned off its classic predecessor the ‘moka express’ by bialetti
read more about the project on designboom here



DB: when you are working, do you discuss or exchange ideas with your colleagues?


AM: I talk with my colleagues in my studio a lot, and also with a lot of other designers, because the way I work is to involve other designers, both unknown and famous ones.


DB: you have always involved a lot of young designers in your work. do you think they have changed in the last 10 years?


AM: I’m not objective enough to say. as far my own experience, I’ve always found that ‘cutting edge’ young people have given me a lot of stimulus, and I am also a kleptomaniac for what I can get from them.

alessandro mendini obituary
fry an egg perfectly with alessandro mendini’s tegamino for alessi | image by walter zerla
read more about the project on designboom here



DB: describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.


AM: I am on a quest to communicate through my objects and work in general, trying to say things that encourage people to deepen meditation and spirituality.


DB: which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?


AM: my design is the milky way, the kaleidoscope of the system of all my objects and works — a sort of nebulous that I can’t grasp. this is what gives me the greatest satisfaction. I recall proust’s armchair and the museum for the city of groeningen.

alessandro mendini obituary
‘calamobio’ for zanotta 1985-88



DB: is there any architect or designer from past you appreciate a lot?


AM: palladio.


DB: what about colleagues, are there any particular ones you appreciate?


AM: frank gehry, philippe starck and many others.

alessandro mendini obituary
peter halley + alessandro mendini collaborate at mary boone gallery, nyc
read more about the project on designboom here



DB: any advice for the young?


AM: I’ve never given advice to either the young or the old.


DB: on the news, they say that italians are afraid of unemployment, criminality and pollution. what are you afraid of regarding the future?


AM: I fear the general escalation of violence in the world. the world is really violent…

alessandro mendini obituary
alessandro mendini at the kartell stand, salone del mobile 2015
image © designboom