The architect Mario Bellini is one of Italy’s greatest designers, with a 40-year career of industrial design behind him. Over the years, he has worked for the highest profile corporations, winning several well-deserved Compasso d’Oro awards and creating products that are on display in museums around the world. When Alberto Bassi interviewed Bellini for Auto & Design, the pair discussed a number of subjects, with particular emphasis on changes in the industrial design sector in recent years. Here are some extracts from that interview.
A&D: Today architects and designers are being asked to shoulder very different responsibilities than they did in the past.
“I don’t think designers should be expected to shoulder elevated responsibilities, ethical or otherwise: we are just small cogs in a much bigger machine. In the best of cases, we can act as “lightning conductors”.
A&D: How would you describe the Bellini design of today?
“Mainly plant and content innovation. For the exhibition of my work in the Bicocca Hangar during the Furniture Fair, I shall be trying to highlight one particular aspect of my work in this field: the fact that I’ve often invented things. That’s because my approach to any new project always starts with curiosity and is totally free of preconceptions”.
A&D: So, is the difference between architecture and design merely a question of scale?
“It’s a great mistake to make chairs like miniature palaces or buildings that are merely oversized ornaments. Architecture is that part of the city you live in and nobody lives in chairs. The great difference comes from spaces that impinge on our everyday lives. Though a chair is more complicated to design than a skyscraper. As I once wrote in a Domus editorial: Tell me what chair you’ve designed and I’ll tell you what kind of architect you are”.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 150