Remembering Richard Sapper, 1932–2015

January 19, 2016 - table lamp

A technical genius, a inexhaustible collaborator, and an brave man—Sapper was all these things, contend his former friends, associates, and admirers.


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Richard Sapper, 46, during work in his bureau in 1978

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design

Close associates, manufacturers, and contemporary designers simulate on the good Modernist industrial designer, who upheld divided on New Year’s Eve in Milan.


An Adventurous Life

In new years, as Richard and we collaborated on a decisive investigate of his work, an insinuate loyalty developed, and we came to know his approach, his techniques, and his motives.

From a coop to a bus, Richard was gentle operative in all scales, and he was means to pattern successful products for vast companies and little family owned businesses alike. His business astuteness and bargain of a duty of beauty gave him lean over attention in a proceed that few designers of his era had, and as a outcome he was means to claim his biased meditative over pattern during a mass scale. He would impute to a all-important “kiss from a muse” that was required to start any project, and his superb proceed adored an component of surprise. His H2O kettle for Alessi hold a esteem for a user who would purify it, as a discriminating aspect reflects a universe around it, and his ThinkPad laptop conceals a keyboard and digital calm inside a elementary black box. While his designs were mostly radical and technological, he was endangered with participating in an ancient bequest of form and drew many of his impulse from premodern designs. He was an zealous skier, windsurfer, sailor, convene racer, even breeze glider, and his adore of suit (and forms in motion) translated into many kinetic designs such as a Tizio flare and a Sapper guard arms.

The Tizio list flare designed for Artemide in 1972

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design

Richard always spoke fondly of his early mentor, a clergy and informative censor Romano Guardini, and his longtime co-operator Marco Zanuso. For decades he worked closely with a indication builder Giovanni Sacchi and a photographer Aldo Ballo, who respectively helped qualification and promulgate his work. Later in life, as he was increasingly on a road, he was famous to improvise models for clients, like a mechanism indication that he finished on brief notice during a friend’s violin correct emporium in New England. He was also singular in that he always chose to work from his home offices, in Milan, on Lake Como, and in Los Angeles, and kept a little register of assistants, many of whom worked from their possess homes or studios. He was famous to horde meetings with his clients, quite IBM, on a grass of his home in Como, where it was common to postponement a assembly for a burst in a lake. For Richard, life and work were one and a same.

Many reporters have combined about how he didn’t like to pronounce about his work, preferring to concede his designs to pronounce for themselves. While this is true, Richard desired a good review with friends, generally one fueled by “fire water,” Cynar or Punt e Mes, that Richard favourite to offer on ice. Richard suspicion pattern should residence posterity, and in a days after he upheld divided it occurred to me that his personality, his adore of journey and surprise, his warmth, and his special mix of engineering and amusement tarry in his products.

Jonathan Olivares, engineer and editor of Richard Sapper (Phaidon, 2016)

The Mod 5140 personal mechanism designed for IBM in 1986. Sapper after designed a ThinkPad laptop for a computing giant.

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design

Technical Genius

It’s no little attainment that many of Richard Sapper’s iconic designs became present objects of desire. My favorite is his Tizio list flare for Artemide. Its elegant, crane-like structure swivels and adjusts like a marionette, though a genuine breakthrough is a inventive technology. Gone are unsightly cords and wires: The electric stream that travels by a aluminum arms to irradiate a little halogen tuber was a seed that spawned successive dangling wire light fixtures.

Cara McCarty, Curatorial Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sense of Wonder

Richard Sapper’s Tizio flare for Artemide sits ideally on a midcentury-modern walnut-and-glass side list in a vital room of my family’s lodge in a Hamptons. Each time we visit, we find myself tinkering with a lamp’s movements like a child in wonder. Sapper’s work is a paradox. At once it is rarely rational, visually effortless, nonetheless functionally complex. His change on pattern will not blur anytime soon.

Brad Ascalon, designer

The TS 502 radio designed with Marco Zanuso for Brionvega in 1963

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design/Photograph by Serge Libiszewski

Wide Influence

He was a hulk of industrial design, and we collected his work for a Stewart Collection in Montreal—from a iconic Tizio flare to his unusual work in partnership with Marco Zanuso. Those radios and televisions for Brionvega are unrivalled in their artistic beauty. we always dignified his general participation in a pattern world—in Italy and Germany— though also his training in a United States and England as good as Germany. He lived a ideal of pattern as an general phenomenon. 

David Hanks, Curator, Stewart Program for Modern Design

The Sapper guard arm designed for Knoll in 2012

Courtesy Knoll

Generous Collaborator

It’s a large personal loss, given in further to being a good designer, he was a coach for me in many ways. He’s a couple that goes behind in Modernism to people like Marco Zanuso, that takes we behind to Gio Ponti. We’re losing that couple now, and we cruise myself intensely absolved to have worked with him for a past 10 years.

The product that he worked on for Knoll is a array of supports for technology, and each singular one of a people during Knoll that worked with Richard wrote to me and told me that he was one of a many critical people they have worked with in their time support here.

I final saw Richard in a second week of December, in a hospital. We were deliberating another project, exchanging drawings and information. It was a smashing meeting, and we sat for about 3 hours until a helper threw me out. We got a lot of work done, given being in a hospital, he was totally bored. He was in unequivocally good spirits when we saw him, and unequivocally inquisitive, and unequivocally vehement to be operative on something.

Richard was a unequivocally special guy. He influenced me and a people we work with in his professionalism. But maybe many some-more critical than that, he influenced millions of people by a objects that he designed. He finished things that finished people happy and were useful to them. That’s incredible.

Benjamin Pardo, executive of design, Knoll

Products that Sapper designed for Alessi embody a 9091 kettle with a symphonic alarm from 1983

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design/Photograph by Aldo Ballo

Hint of Transcendence

Tempus fugit. Another of my maestros leaves. Together with Ettore Sottsass, Achille Castiglioni, and Alessandro Mendini, Richard Sapper had been for me during a ’70s a dear master, predominant for his surgical pointing in translating a participation of his imagination into genuine industrial products that are tighten to perfection.

I worked with Richard for roughly 40 years, given we asked him to pattern a initial Alessi espresso maker, a 9090, that has been in a catalog given 1979 and won a XI Compasso d’oro prize. He combined some of a many iconic and undying products for us, though he did many more: he contributed to a building of a Alessi temperament as an Italian pattern bureau by assisting us know with his projects and his pattern use that industrial products might not be usually “merchandise”—they can have a “soul,” a spirit of transcendence.

Besides a 9090 espresso coffeemaker, some of his projects for us include: a kettle with symphonic alarm (1983), a pots-and-pans collection La Cintura di Orione (1986), a tea and coffeepots for catering 4060 (1982), a watch Uri-uri (1988), a teapot Bandung (1992), a stackable trays RS02 (1995), a electric coffeemaker Cobàn (1997), a cheese grater Todo (2004).

“My meditative routine customarily starts from a thing that we feel does not exist,” Sapper used to say. He was used to operative on usually a few projects during a same time, and usually those that unequivocally meddlesome him—like all good designers should.

Alberto Alessi, president of Alessi S.p.A. and conduct of selling strategy, communications, and pattern management

Pleasure Principle

When I’m home, a initial intent we use each day is Richard Sapper’s stovetop espresso maker. we remember wondering about a hoop when it was brand-new—why brown? Not prolonged after, as a pot began to take on a patina of use, a tone achieved a witty intelligence: It matches a coffee stains perfectly. And it’s a pleasure to use, even half asleep. As my mental checklist for a day starts to take shape, a espresso starts to hiss and sputter, stuffing my kitchen with a tasty smell. Thank you, Mr. Sapper.

Leon Ransmeier, designer

The 9090, Alessi’s initial espresso maker, designed in 1978 

Courtesy Alessi

The Minitimer kitchen timer from 1971

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design

The Algol unstable television developed for Brionvega in 1985

​Courtesy Richard Sapper Design/Photograph by Aldo Ballo

The Sapper Executive Chair for Knoll

Courtesy Richard Sapper Design/Photograph by Aldo Ballo

The Zoombike folding bicycle constructed by Elettromontaggi in 2000

​Courtesy Richard Sapper Design/Photography by Luciano Soave

The Grillo Telephone for Siemens Italtel, 1965

​Courtesy Richard Sapper Design/Photograph by Roberto Zabban

The 2007 Tosca stacking chair designed for Magis

​Courtesy Richard Sapper Design

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