917: Ettore Sottsass was born in Innsbruck, Austria. Ettore Sottsass is the iconic Italian designer best-known for starting the Memphis Group, which in turn opened the doors for postmodernism.
1990: Ettore Sottsass gave life to Centrotavola, a centrepiece in lime wood designed for the Twergi line by Officina Alessi (a collection of wooden accessories made by the craftsmen of the Valle Strona, close to Lake Orta, northern Italy, where Alessi has its headquarters).
“Almost all the pieces I design have a base, they don’t touch the ground directly. As soon as you place a shape on a base, instantly the shape becomes more important, more stable: it becomes a small monument” Sottsass said of his work. And Centrotavola, one of the many icons he designed for Alessi, is a striking example of this.
Started in 1972, the partnership between Alessi and Sottsass was based on an on-going discussion on aesthetics and on the role of the design industry. “Ettore never spared me his good-humoured critics” Alberto Alessi tell us with affection and gratitude. And it’s exactly from those discussions that the special relationship between the two comes from, an universal language that has defined the identity of the Alessi brand.
In fact, Ettore Sottsass’ critical analysis, coherent design and love for simplicity, have embodied real design challenges with a high-level of experimentation; this was enthusiastically taken on board by Alessi. So, the designs that resulted from this partnership have in turn become real archetypes of contemporary living, timeless icons.
In connection with the centenary from Sottsass’ birth and to celebrate this solid partnership, Alessi has decided to re-edit Centrotavola: a limited edition series of 999 numbered pieces, turned on a lathe exactly in the same way as all those years ago.
“One of the most difficult things for a serious designer is to understand who will use your product” said Sottsass. And now, by observing this timeless sculptural centerpiece we can safely say that Sottsass wasn’t just great at capturing the times he was living in but he also had an eye to the future: brilliantly anticipating the taste and trends of today.