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Ettore Sottsass

Born in Austria in 1917, Ettore Sottsass was an innovative Italian architect and industrial designer during the 20th century. The son of a modernist architect, Sottsass grew up in Turin, where he studied architecture and eventually worked with his father to design new, modernist versions of buildings that were destroyed during World War II. In 1947, he moved to Milan, Italy to set up his own architectural and industrial design studio, where he began to create a range of works including furniture pieces, ceramics, sculpture, and more. In 1956, Sottsass relocated to New York City for a few months to work for American designer George Nelson, and in 1957, joined Poltronova, a semi-industrial producer of contemporary furniture, as an artistic consultant. Sottsass spent the next decade designing award-winning computers and office equipment for Italian electronics manufacturer Olivetti. In 1980, he founded the Memphis Group in Milan, spearheading an Italian postmodern furniture movement characterized by ephemeral design, bright colors, and abstract and asymmetrical shapes. The Memphis Group made waves in the international design world throughout the 1980s, producing iconic pieces such as the Carlton bookcase and the Casablanca sideboard cabinet. In later life, Sottsass collaborated with glassmaker Venini, as well as with other companies including Knoll, where he designed the famous Mandarin chair. Despite his death in 2007, Sottsass remains one of the most celebrated figures in the late 20th century Italian design scene.