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Italian architect, furniture and industrial designer, Mario Bellini (1935-) received his doctorate in architecture from the Milan Polytechnic in 1959. He was a strong figure in the lucrative flood of Italian design in the international market between 1955 and 1965. Bellini started his career in 1961 as the design director at the department store, La Rinascente, where he remained until 1963, when he was hired as a consultant for the company Olivetti.

Olivetti allowed Bellini great freedom to create his own language of machine design, one of the emerging needs of post-war design. While there, he was responsible for the terminals, teleprinters, machine supports and typewriters. His work was characterized by an interplay between the architectural and anthropomorphic qualities of the products he designed. He paid great attention to the planar and wedge-like aspects of the machine's body, and produced an external "skin," or "stretched membrane" for the outside. He produced a "continuous, flexible, rubber-skin keyboard" for his popular "Divisummal" calculator. Other successful products were the "GA 45 Pop" automatic record player for Minerva (1969) and the "TCV 500" video display terminal and "TC 800" cassette deck for Yamaha (1975). Bellini reversed his hard interior/soft exterior formula of industrial design for his piece at the MoMA's 1972 show on Italian design. Here Bellini was represented by his "Kar-a-Sutra," made in collaboration with Cassina, Citroën and Pirelli. The formal, bus-like structure had an open interior filled with couches and cushions for a reclined ride. Bellini was also a design consultant at Renault in the late seventies.

Bellini's early chairs for C & B Italy and for Cassina are elegant examples of the prevailing popularity for heavily cushioned armchairs and sofas. His "Amanta" chair (1966) is a simple, L-shaped foam cushion over a fiberglass frame. His later "Cab" chair and sofa (1976, 1982) had removable leather coverings that zipped around the frame. His use of clay as the material for his models is evident in the soft, pliable quality of his designs. His series of rolling, swivel office chairs designed for Vitra were close forefathers to the office chairs mass-produced today. These chairs, put into production in the late 1970's were: "Figura," "Persona," "Imago," "Onda," "Summa" and "Forma."

The bulk of Bellini's work grew out of the "classical design school," which was driven by marketability, the possibility of mass industrial production and commercial viability. Thus, his work tends to be rather formal, an attempt to make "good Italian design synonymous with industry and culture." His lighting designs, like his 1974 "Area" hanging light, often have a more sculptural quality, without compromising the functionality of the design.

Bellini supplemented his career by teaching at the College of Industrial Design in Venice, the Applied Art College in Vienna and at the Domus Academy in Milan. He also had his own office, called Studio Bellini, in Milan. Between 1986 and 1991 he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Italian design magazine Domus. He also designed and curated "The Domestic Project" exhibit at the 1986 Milan Triennial, and was the recipient of several Compasso d'Oro awards.


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