The body of work of Italian modern design furniture designer and architect Ettore Sottsass was as unique and intriguing as his name. Besides furniture, his work also extended into jewelry, lighting, office machine design, and glass.
Ettore Sottsass was born in Innsbruck, Austria on September 14, 1917 but was raised in Milan where his father worked as an architect. Sottsass followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated in 1939 from Turin’s Politecnico di Torino with an architecture degree. However, he did not begin working as an architect until 1948 when he returned home after serving in the Italian military during World War II and set up his own Milan-based architecture and design studio.
By the late 1950s Sottsass was working with Italian manufacturer Olivetti, designing a variety of office equipment, furniture, and typewriters. Together with Roberto Olivetti, Sottsass would go on to create various work that earned a place in pop culture. His work with Olivetti and Mario Tchou like the Elea 9003 earned him the prestigious Compasso d’Oro industrial design award. The Elea 9003 cemented its place in history as the first Italian mainframe computer.
Sottsass traveled to the United States in the 1960s, continuing his work for Olivetti. During this time he shifted his attention to creating less commercial work and focused on sculptures that served as expressions of his experiences traveling throughout the U.S. and India.
In 1970 he debuted the Valentine Typewriter, recognized for its bright red plastic design which quickly became a must have fashion accessory and was lauded for being a design statement as opposed to a typical office typewriter.
Ettore Sottsass passed away at the age 90 in Milan on December 31, 2007 but left behind a strong collection of work that became known for using color, shape and material to create strong emotions.
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