Ettore Sottsass was born in Innsbruck in 1917, and graduated in Architecture at the Turin Polytechnic in 1939. Enlisted during the Second World War, Ettore Sottsass was imprisoned for approximately six years. On finally being released, he returned to Italy in 1947 and began working in Milan. In 1948 Ettore Sottsass joined MAC, the Concrete Art Movement, and took part as an artist in the first collective exhibition dedicated to this art form.
He became art director for Poltronova in 1957, and in 1958 began his long-term collaboration with Olivetti as a design consultant. The Olivettirelationship lasted more than thirty years and earned Ettore Sottsass numerous awards, including three Golden Compasses. During these early years, Ettore Sottsass developed a vision of design as an instrument for social criticism, as he said “Design is one way to discuss life. It is a way to discuss society, politics, eroticism, food and even design. Lastly, it is a way to build a possible figurative utopia or to build a metaphor of life.”
In 1980 Ettore Sottsass founded Memphis in collaboration with like minded designers, including Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki,Andrea Branzi and Michele de Lucchi, with the aim of providing objects with “a symbolic, emotive and ritual aspect” This was followed by the founding of the Ettore Sottsass Associati firm, which included Aldo Cibic,Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini and Marco Marabelli. Memorable designs from this period included the “Carlton” (1981) and “Cargo” (1979) bookcases, and the “Tatar” table (1985).
Ettore Sottsass died in Milan on 31 December 2007 at the age of ninety, after an astonishingly influential design career, and numerous prizes and recognitions.