World-renowned architect-designer Mario Bellini has been an influential figure in Italian design since the 1960s. His prolific body of work spans architecture, urban planning, and furniture and industrial design.
Bellini was born in Milan in 1935. He graduated with a degree in architecture from Milan’s Polytechnic University in 1959. Shortly after, he became the design director at La Rinascente, a popular chain of Italian department stores. In 1963, he was hired by office equipment firm Olivetti as their chief design consultant. In the same year, he established Studio Bellini in Milan with business partner Marco Romano.
Although Bellini’s designs were less iconoclastic than those of his contemporary postmodern designers, they were no less innovative and are characterized by original, organic, technically complex forms. Iconic designs include the Amanta Chair (1966) and Le Bambole Sofa (1972) both for B&B Italia; the Kar-a-Sutra Van (1972) for Citroën, which was exhibited at Italy: The New Domestic Landscape at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1972; the Divisumma 18 Electronic Calculator (1973) for Olivetti; the 412 Cab Chair (1976-7) and Victoria Series (1982) for Cassina; and the Bellini Chair (1998) for Heller, which won a Compasso d’Oro in 2001. Bellini has also designed for major international companies such as Artemide, Brionvega, Fiat, Flos, Pirelli, Renault, Rosenthal, Tecno, Vitra, and Yamaha.
From the 1980s, Bellini dedicated himself almost entirely to architecture. His architectural feats include the Villa Erba Exhibition and Convention Centre in Cernobbio, Como (1986-1990); the Tokyo Design Centre (1988-1992); the Natuzzi America Headquarters in North Carolina (1996-1998); the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne (1996-2003); the Deutsche Bank Headquarters in Frankfurt (2006-11); the City History Museum of Bologna (2003-12); the Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre in Paris (2005-12); and the new Milan Convention Centre (2008-12), which is the largest in Europe.
The prolific architect has many Italian projects currently underway or just completed including the refurbishment of terminal three at Roma-Fiumicino Airport (2014-2017), the Erzelli Science and Technology Park in Genoa, and the new Antiquarium Museum in Rome (2015-2017). At the time of writing, Bellini has various projects that are still at the design stage including the ‘Eco-City’ of Zhenjiang in China (2013-2018) and a large residential, cultural, and sports complex in Qatar (2014-2022).
From 1985 until 1991, Bellini edited the influential architectural and design magazine, Domus. In 1987, MoMA dedicated its first retrospective to the Italian master, honoring his life’s work and committing 25 pieces to its permanent collection. As well as being the focus of two more exhibitions, Bellini also curated countless art, design, and architecture exhibitions both in Italy and abroad. The number of accolades awarded to the designer-architect is almost endless. To date, he has received eight Compasso d’Oro awards, the Medaglia d’Oro (2004), the Ambrogino d’Oro for civic merit (2011), and many many others.
Today, Bellini leads seminars and workshops at universities and academic institutions around the world.
* Images courtesy of Mario Bellini Architects