Alessandro Mendini

Head Architect

  • Mendini 0 & 1 pavillion with Proust motif. Foto: Marten de Leeuw © Groninger Museum
  • Groninger Museum Entry - Photo: Marten de Leeuw © Groninger Museum
  • Mendini stairs - Photo: Marten de Leeuw © Groninger Museum

Mendini, born in 1931, is a very versatile man. In addition to being an architect, he is also a designer, artist, theorist, and poet. Mendini publishes a great deal, writing columns regularly in international magazines. He can be seen as one of the founders of New Design. Mendini holds the opinion that ornamentation ought to be the point of departure for design. He is sure that people no longer wish to have mass products. A human is an individual and needs personality instead of the anonymity of functional design. 'Every person is different,' says Mendini, 'so why shouldn't an object also be different?' In Mendini's view, it is not the function of the object that ought to be the starting point, but its beauty - thus, not the object but the user.

A number of features can be discovered in Mendini's work that are also reflected in the Groninger Museum. For instance, he denies traditional hierarchical orders in art and the historical division into time and place. He finds art-historical styles, exotic cultures, and kitsch all equally important.

Furthermore, Mendini thinks that there are no boundaries between the various activities in which he is engaged. Theatre, visual art, architecture, and science can be freely intermingled. Any distinction between these disciplines is superfluous.

Mendini claims that everything has already been invented and used. The only thing that remains is to use it again. This is expressed in redesign and in a great appreciation of decoration.

A third feature of Mendini's work is his co-operation with others. In his artistic career he has entered various co-operative efforts with artists, architects, and designers. This has led to the creation of furniture, objects, clothes, décors, paintings, theatre performances, ceramics, and jewellery, and also buildings such as the Groninger Museum. The desire to breach the boundaries of traditional specialist areas means, almost by definition, that Mendini is more active as a director and deviser than as an executor.