Architect, designer, design theorist, critic, and journalist—all describe Alessandro Mendini, who died on February 18 at the age of 87. One of the key figures in modern Italian design, he was particularly known for his writings and contributions to the radical design and postmodern movements of the 1970s and 80s. After graduating in 1959 with a degree in architecture from the Milan Politecnico, he started his career in the studio of architect-designer Marcello Nizzoli. In 1970, Mendini left the firm to focus on design journalism, becoming editor of Casabella before joining the magazine Modo. From 1980-85, he was editor-in-chief of the influential publication Domus.
Starting in the 1970s, Mendini became a force behind a design revolution that rejected spare, rational modernism in favor of design inspired by decoration, humor, and even the banal objects of contemporary life. With designers Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi, Mendini co-founded Studio Alchimia in 1976. He and Sottsass were among the founders of the Memphis group in 1980. The Memphis group were proponents of a postmodern aesthetic that reflected joy in artistic expression and embraced the radical altering of modernist forms and the invention of new ones. Mendini, in collaboration with manufacturers such as Alessi and Phillips, designed objects and interior fittings, from furniture and wallpaper to kitchen tools and appliances.
Returning to architecture by the late 1980s, Mendini founded Atelier Mendini with his younger brother Francesco in 1989, and remained active in the studio right up to the time of his death. Alessandro Mendini was recognized with numerous awards throughout his life, including two Compasso d’Oro prizes (1979, 1981), and a European Prize for Architecture (2014).