Ettore Sottsass Jr.

Superbox, 1966

Beginning in the late 1950s, Ettore Sottsass began working as an artistic director for Poltronova, a company developing contemporary furniture, and at the same time for the Olivetti firm. In this as in each of his projects, with Superboxes, Sottsass is trying to charge “objects with ritual weight”. “I have always thought that design begins where rational processes end and magic begins.” Thus, Sottsass privileged meaning over form, ritual over the strict functional aspect. These pieces of furniture are doubtless among the first to highlight the uses of stratification and, in their sculptural geometric forms, their saturated colors and taste for motif, prefigure the future production of groups such as Alchymia, which Sottsass joined in 1979, and Memphis, which he founded in 1980. Thus, the Superboxes demonstrate the relationship in Sottsass’s thinking between design and architecture. For him, design “in the end is just an architectural exercice.” These prototypes must also be viewed in their relationhship with the series of ceramics he created in 1967 (Menhir, Ziggurat, Stupas, Hydrants & Gas Pumps), upon which he bestowed the status of genuine architecture. With his Superboxes, most of which were only produced in the form of small models in wood, Sotssas was not only questioning the traditional image of a wardrobe, but also rethinking the basic logic of its design. Closer to altars, these structures materialize the idea of design conceived of first and foremost as providing a “schema for a cultural and sociale metaphor.” (Sottsass)

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