In Memoriam – “[A designer] should look after the quality of form, […] with an obsession for diversity.” Said in an interview Enzo Mari, one of the most important designers on the XXth century who passed away in his beloved city, Milan due to complications related to Covid-19.
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THE EXHIBITION – The recently inaugurated tribute exhibition at Milan Triennale ‘Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli’, celebrates the designer and his vision for creativity as a social and political tool.“[Designers] should influence people’s taste away from waste, to lead society towards a shared future,” he used to say. “Bye Enzo. You’re leaving like a Giant,” wrote architect and Triennale Design Museum director Stefano Boeri on his Facebook page.
THE VISION – A fervent communist, Mari believed in the power of ‘sharing’ as a fundamental design process shaping projects born from the dialogue of people who, together, contributed to create and to achieve collective goals. His book the book Autoprogettazione, deals with the DIY construction of furniture, is a clear example of such vision. The Bric make & build-yourself system of modular furnitures (1977) were conceived to be sold with an assembling kit, long before the rise of Ikea.
Designers shouldn’t only focus on beauty itself or merely intercepts and follow marketing trends, they should commit to everyday functionalism. “Do not bow for the self-referring luxury business but create for the interest of all,” he used to say. His Sedia n.1 – chair no.1, 1974 – is part of an affordable furniture collection conceived to be purchased and easily assembled by everyone.
DESIGN – Born in 1932 in Novara, northern Italy, Enzo Mari studied psychology of visual perception at Milan’s Brera Academy. In 1957 he open his industrial design studio with Danese as his first client. For the Italian furniture company he created the Putrella vessel (1958) which is made from a building site steel beam bent at its edges, while In Attesa paper basket (1971) comes a protruding tilted tube recalling the function of ‘waiting for’ – in attesa in Italian – balls thrown at it.
Among his most celebrated chairs is the super simple Sof Sof for Driade in 1962 which comes in electrically welded chromed rods contrasting with generously soft pillows, the Tonietta seat for Zanotta (1987) is made from propylene and and aluminium frame while the stackable Mariolina seat for Magis (2002) comes in steel and injection-moulded plastic. Other iconic designs are Sumatra (1976), a colorful stackable files holder, and Formosa (1963), a wall calendar with interchangeable PVC panels.
PUBLICATIONS – Among his most famous publications is the The Apple and the Butterfly, a wordless book of paintings depicting the story of a caterpillar and an apple. In Il gioco delle favole – The game of fairytales, 1964 – by Corraini independent publisher reinterprets fairytales’ most iconic creatures in a playful book, considered one of the most creativity-boost publications for kids. Most recently Danese Milano and Cartiere Pigna released a stationery collection featuring EnzoMari’s drawings.
THE LEGACY – Philosopher, professor and educator, and winner of 5 Compasso d’Oro – the Nobel-equivalent of Italian design – Mari’s work is celebrated in some of the most influential design museum world wide, from Milan Triennale to New York’s MoMA.
“Mari is not just a designer. If his object didn’t exist I wouldn’t mind.” Said Alessandro Mendini. “Mari is the designers’ conscience, this is what matter to me.” In his Barcelona manifesto he advocated for an ethical approach, and they should take a oath just like doctors do on the Hippocrates manifesto. Thank you and farewell Enzo Mari.
- Curator and art critic Lea Vergine, Enzo Mari’s wife, has passed away the day after her husband from complications due to Covid-19.