A Sensorial Technology
Ettore Sottsass


Ettore Sottsass, 1983

©Monica Pidgeon

My name is Ettore Sottsass and I was born in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1917. My father was an architect, an Italian architect, but in those times the town where my father was born and living was under Austria. So he had to study in Vienna. And he studied under Wagner and Hoffmann and all the very important professors of that time, that were the heroes of the best Viennese moment, around 1912/14/15, before the first World War. That's why in my house there were a lot of books about this period that I was looking through when I was adolescent. So probably that's one of the reasons why I was so, for all my life in a certain way, culturally and visually conditioned by that kind of vision let's say. My father always wanted me to be an architect and I pro— bably was too lazy to change his mind, to do anything different, and so I went into architectural school in Torino, and I got a degree in architecture in '39, and then I went into war which lasted a lot of years, and then finally I came back and Italy was almost completely destroyed. My father was kind of old and without money, and I really didn't know what to do. I stayed for two years in Torino and then I came to Milano because I thought that Milano was a town that was giving more possibilities for my work. In fact I had ten very terrible years in Milano without eating, without knowing, almost sleeping in the streets. I din't know where to go. And now I'm in Milano since 1948. My work for Olivetti was all done in Milano and for other companies. Always, for my laziness, I wasn't very good in organising my relationship with institutions, with power, which is one of the conditions to be an architect: you should be very good in finding the money, finding the clients, and so on. I couldn't imagine myself being an architect in fact. I also had great interest in art and painting and sculpture. And so I started doing some small objects by myself, and tried to do some small furniture and


Early Furniture, 1966. Plywood & Plastic Laminates

©Sottsass Associati

I developed the idea that maybe the environment could be designed not only starting from the so—called macro objects like architecture but from micro objects. Which is I think a real possibility. I don't think it's necessary always to go through stone; you may also go through maybe wood or even straw, very delicate materials. And I think you can give indications about the image that the space can get, the image about the meaning of space, also through paper and not necessarily, as I said, through stone. And this kind of attitude I took with myself all my life.

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