“Tell me what chair you’ve designed and I’ll tell you what sort of architect you are.” – Mario Bellini
Since the 1960’s, the versatile Mario Bellini has been celebrated for his distinctive designs in architecture, master planning, interiors, furnishings, and industrial design.
Born in Milan in 1935, Bellini graduated in architecture from the Milan Polytechnic in 1959. After working as design director of La Rinascente, he was hired in 1963 by Olivetti to re-design its office machines. Olivetti helped him satisfy what he has called his “insatiable curiosity,” by allowing him free rein and excitement of working with engineers, modelers, and painters. He could explore industrial production in terms of his grounding in classical architecture. Architectural logic was expressed in an organic form language.
Bellini was a key figure in the revitalization of Italian design. Always looking for simple elegant solutions, he designed such pieces as the Amanta chair, a fiberglass frame supporting a foam cushion (C & B, 1966), the famous Cab chair with its removable leather covering (Cassina, 1976), and office chairs for Vitra. Bellini’s designs were also produced by Fiat, Renault, Pirelli, Brionvega, Yamaha, and Artemide.
Bellini won international renown with Kar-a-Sutra, designed for Citroen. This open glass van, which contained an entire living environment on wheels, was exhibited at the groundbreaking 1972 MoMA exhibition called “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape.” Fifteen years later, in 1987, MoMA honored Mario Bellini with its first retrospective devoted to the works of a single living designer.
In 1998 he designed the Bellini Chair for Heller, which won the coveted Compasso d’Oro in 2001.
Bellini’s designs are often created by molding clay into muscular forms. Bellini has said that designing a chair is “infinitely more complex than designing a skyscraper…Tell me what chair you’ve designed and I’ll tell you what sort of architect you are.”
His long career also included a period from 1986 to 1991, when he was editor-in-chief of the design magazine Domus. In architecture, Bellini’s buildings include the Tokyo Design Center (1992) and The Milan Trade Fair (1997).
The 2017 exhibition “Mario Bellini: Italian Beauty” at The Triennale in Milan celebrated his more than 60 years of contributions to design and architecture.