Mario Bellini is an undisputed star of Italian and European design with a long career stretching since his graduation from the Politecnico di Milano, in 1959.
His desire for design began at the age of just 9 years old, when he built his first habitable house with bricks and a ‘strip’ in color (with devils and ghosts) to slide through a projector! By the age of 35, he had become one of the leading exponents of Italian design. Such is Bellini’s reputation as a designer that he was one of the first designers to be accorded a one-man show during his lifetime at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Bellini’s first major step into the design high echelon began is 1961, when he became the design director of department store, La Rinascente - a Milanese department store that was established after the First World War and has done much to promote the higher standards of Italian design.
Within a few years he was working for Italian mechanical design company, Olivetti, and designing furniture for Cassina, B&B Italia and Vitra. He has also designed electronic equipment for Brionvega and Yamaha, and worked as design consultant for Renault Italy in 1970.
While working for Olivetti, he experimented with stretching a ‘skin’ over metal, which is often noted as his signature style. An example of this is his famous "Divisummal" calculator for Olivetti. Described as "continuous, flexible, rubber-skin keyboard", this is still popular today and was groundbreaking at the time.
Similarly, the "GA 45 Pop" automatic record player for Minerva (produced in 1969), with its startling, bright red plastic coating and chrome trim, is another piece that is regarded as ‘ahead of its time’.
Indeed, Bellini seemed to ‘look into the future’ during these years. His series of rolling, swivel
office chairs designed for Vitra, are close forefathers to the office chairs mass-produced today.
His furniture design is stylistically eclectic, with a very high level of finish. He will often use voluptuous forms and luxurious materials, particularly in his chairs and couches. His furniture is soft, pliable and comfortable, while his lighting designs have a more sculptural quality.
Bellini comments on his objects, furniture and machines, as “inventions which involve sensorial experiences and behaviors more than just their 'function'.”
By 1972 Bellini had claimed international attention, when he presented a mobile micro-living environment entitled Kar-a-Sutra at the "New Domestic Landscape" exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Similar to a glass encased bus, the interior was heavily padded with huge cushions for a sensual and reclined experience.
Since the late 1980’s Bellini has become increasingly successful with his architectural talents, presenting major projects ranging from the Tokyo Design Centre, the extension to the Milan Trade Fair and the International Congress and Exhibition Centre in Cernubbio. In 2003, he was responsible for the total redevelopment of the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, a project spanning more than seven years and costing a total of 168 million dollars.
“Someone talked about my buildings as 'urban islands', fragments of urban fabric” says Bellini, “which generate spatial sequences rather then objects in themselves”. He states that he prefers projects that are “tempered by difficulty and adversity -economic, technical and legislative, due to time and use,
and have come to maturation without having
been burdened by some un-digestible compromise.”
Other buildings of importance created by Bellini include the European Patent Office, L’Aja, Holland, (2004); Cittanova 2000, Modena, Italy (2003); Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze-Bank-New H.Q., Italy (2003); Stolitza Towers, Moscow, (1996); Dubai Creek Complex , Dubai, United Arab Emirates, (1994); and the Goshikidai Marine Resort, Japan, (1993).
He has won a number of competitions, subsequent to international invitation, including an Office Quarter in Düsseldorf, Germany, and the Redevelopment of the Trieste seafront, Italy. He is also one of three architects designated to design the Multifunctional Complex “MAB. Zeil Project” in Frankfurt,
Germany. His extensive success and hugely respected talents have earned him several accolades, including awards from all the major international design and architecture prizes, as well as eight “Compasso d’oro. In December 2004 he was honored with the “Golden Medal” by Italian Republic President for his architectural and design work in the world.
Today, Bellini’s design and architectural practice, Mario Bellini Associates, is based in Milan, where he continues to create and inspire.
“I like to consider every project like a new exploration to be faced with curiosity, maximum mental openness and renewed
creative energy. I hate to recycle my linguistic cliches even though I am always driven by the same designing attitude as in my early days”, says Bellini.