ettore sottsass interview
ettore sottsass interview ettore sottsass interview
sep 07, 2000

ettore sottsass interview

ettore sottsassimage  © designboom


we met ettore sottsass in his studio in milan the 07.09.2000



what is your best moment of the day?never or all day.



what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?classical or pop.




superbox, 1965poltronova



do you listen to the radio?no



what books do you have on your bedside table?a book on the philosophy of the vedas. (ancient hindu texts)




ultrafragola, 1966poltronova



do you read design magazines?rarely.



newspapers?where do you get news from?usually I read la repubblica, although in general I avoid readingnewspapers because they scare me.



asteroide, 1968



do you notice how women are dressing?do you have any preferences?in order to understand a woman first I look at her eyes, and then how she is dressed.we all have our preferences, they correspond to our conception of life in general.for example I don’t like diamond jewelry, because I think that life is about other things.anyway, let’s drop it.



what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?I never dress formally,and this “french” fashion is sort of snobby. during the beatnik yearsI used to go to new york often, we used to wear old clothes,but now those big department stores full of men’s clothes,military and sailor’s clothes don’t exist anymore, so I go to armani.



valentine, 1969typewriter, olivetti 



do you have any pets?no.



where do you work on your designs and projects?I think of designs when I am in the bathroom, or on the phone, or sitting at any table.i don’t have any particular place. but everyone has a place they likemore than others, where you feel calmer, which is home.I don’t design at my studio. there are too many people there.



sistema 45, 1971olivetti



who would you like to design something for?for a while I have been describing myself as a designer/architect/theorist.I’ve been trying to understand what architecture can be.any subject is good, from a public bathroom, to a hospital, to a sky scraper.but nobody ever asks me to design a sky scraper, precisely becauseI am very interested in architecture, not in sky scrapers..



when you are working, do you discuss or exchange ideas with your colleagues?outside the studio? no.



‘5070’, 1978alessi



describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.I truly believe that our duty as an architect or a designer is to designthings which attract luck, rooms which protect people…I don’t design things in any style, even less so in any fashion style,I design things for life states.



from ‘poltronova’ to ‘olivetti’ to ‘memphis’ to your latest works withsottass associati, can you give us an idea of the evolution of your philosophy?at the beginning, when I was young, full of presumption, theoretical,very aggressive, I was very tied to turn of the century functionalism,to the idea of functional style. but gradually I left that behind,because I found a new source of inspiration. from then on I began to tryto figure out what I could be in terms of this society, the people,the necessity which surrounded me. ‘memphis’ was a sort of exercise in design,so was ‘olivetti’. they asked me to set up the design of the electronics that time, electronics meant big closets… it was impossible to understand.besides the functionality, which i am still interested in, there was this mystery ofelectronics. I wanted to show that electronics were mysterious, that isthe relationship between design and functionality,a more extensive functionality… a description of a certain conception of existence.this relationship has been and still is central in my work.



 le strutture tremano, 1979alchimia



basilico, 1979sarri



which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?and which do you like the most?I don’t know, life is a permanent project, its a passage from one thing to another.



is there any architect or designer from past you appreciate a lot?le corbusier. the idea of functionalism with a mediterranean touch(a swiss who discovers the mediterranean): the walls are slightly sensorial,you can touch them (you can intervene), they are not likegropius’ german ones where you can’t do anything with them.he put toilets in bedrooms, you could see them, he understoodthat functionality was not only ergonomics, not only rationality,but something which went beyond was functional to be a human being and to live.and then there’s also aldo rossi, certainly one of the most interesting architects.



carlton, 1981memphis






what about colleagues, are there any particular ones you appreciate?there are a lot of architects, we’re all good.



you have spent a lot of time in asia and you know the spiritual values of thosecultures very well. do you think that they tend to fuse with our wastefulwestern culture, or do you think there is another possibility?the thing about asia which interested me wasn’t so much the spiritualityas the sensorial approach, the rituals…there is nothing spiritual in spirituality.the word spirituality was invented in the 19th century. I hate that word…it is finding a way to forget the existential disaster, it is a series of rituals,which correspond to the cosmos and they are rituals whichdepend on your social class, the weather,the relationship to animals– this interests me. I think that any attemptto integrate into the modern world can only be “pay attention to life”,existence, but not afterlife.



 cei hause, 1991



what do you think about the spreading of knowledge via internet?do you consider it as a tool for sharing knowledge,or do you think it is a sort of ‘big brother’?I used to think of it as ‘big brother’: it is the most widespread form of colonizationthat has ever existed. internet in essence is western culture.anyone can have access to it… poor countries don’t even have the toolsto enter into it. you sell the tools, who gains? and so on.the news is censored, it belongs to our idea of current western existence.the american way of life. if you put forward another idea,either they don’t listen or they don’t understand or they don’t tell you.on the other hand I’ve also thought that this is the destiny of an industrial society:to survive it is necessary to sell, to sell you have to create desire,you have to create a culture willing to buy that stuff…internet is there. what we can do is see to what extent we can use it,I think it is interesting that information is spread over large sections of society,but does the quality of this information change?…the quality has always changed, from the great religious empires to…I’m sick of people making rhetoric about these machines.the future is going to be wonderful, shining, happy, because of internet.


 nuova milano, 1997alessi



maui hause, 1997



on the news they said that italians are afraid of unemployment,criminality and pollution. what are you afraid of regardingthe future?I think that the future doesn’t exist. what we think of today as the future isn’t the future.people are always afraid of the future, and the future has always been a the present is a disaster. but rhetoric about the future bothers me,because almost everything we do today we say we’re doing for the future.the future is here now, let’s try to get organized now.I don’t care about the future at all.



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