Zanuso and Mendini: two great architects and Alumni on display at the ADI museum

Starting from the works of these two architects, the exhibition aims to “lay the foundations for reflection on Italian design and its values”

Two great Alumni and professional architects and designers compared: this is the exhibition ‘Marco Zanuso and Alessandro Mendini: Design and Architecture’, on display at theADI Design Museum di Milano.

“This exhibition that intends to lay the foundations for reflection on Italian design and its values,” says Luciano Galimberti, President of the ADI Association for Industrial Design, “and revolves around a exhibition tour that stimulates reflection by playing on the contrast of works by the two architects, thanks to a play on references and influences.”


Marco Zanuso, Alumnus and professor at the Politecnico, is considered one of the founders of Italian industrial design.

Starting in post-World War II, one of his main interests was the accessibility and costs of mass-produced items, which led him to become the first to be interested in the use of new materials and technologies for common objects and the problems of product industrialisation.

Credits: Grand Vintage

Alessandro Mendini, on the other hand, graduated in 1959 and began practising during the seasons of radical and postmodern architecture; working on his “redesign” projects, he managed to create classic pieces of design by reinventing them with new colours and materials.

His is an eclectic approach, which we talked about with him in person in MAP 0:

“I had a hard time understanding what I was. I have a certain indifference in technique: I like painting, writing, graphics, etc.… none takes precedence over the others. I'll explain: Medardo Rosso was a wax sculptor. That’s the only thing he could do, and he did it excellently. Or, from a content perspective, Morandi focused on bottles. I, on the other hand, am dispersive, eclectic. I am always attracted to what does not belong to me and I waste my energy searching for it. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to say what I do and what goals I have achieved. It's all very fragmented and kaleidoscopic. But in all this mess in my head, there is also a method, a working hypothesis. I work like a factory worker, from morning to evening; actually, more, because factory workers don’t work on Sundays.”

Alessandro Mendini PH Montibeller
Credits: Montibeller

The exhibition thus becomes a way of comparing Zanuso's rigorous design method and Mendini's postmodern procedure, who has successfully reworked poetically existing objects.

Speaking of the exhibition, curator Pierluigi Nicolin emphasises:

“Going beyond the Italian context, we can see how the 'strong' modernist Zanuso-like themes and the 'weak' postmodernist Mendini-like themes are based on the ability to invalidate the premises from which they start and, in the particular 'sentimental journey' that unites them, we can see how they both end up by denying in their own way the existence of an insurmountable boundary to their own experience.”

The exhibition will be open until 12 June 2022.

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Credits header and homepage: ADI Design Museum