Product + Furniture Designer (1932-)
One of the most thoughtful and intellectually provocative Italian designers of the late 20th century, ENZO MARI (1932-) has proved as influential to younger generations of designers as to his peers as a writer, teacher, artist and designer of products, furniture and puzzle games.
There is a possibly apocryphal story that Enzo Mari once devoted over a year to thinking about – and experimenting with – the design of a single ashtray. He worked on other projects at the same time, but the ashtray was always at the forefront of his mind.When finished, it was praised by Mari’s peers as exceptionally elegant and dramatically different from existing ashtrays. Unfortunately it proved too different for the public’s taste. The ashtray flopped and its only enduring legacy was Mari’s “two-packs-a-day” cigarette habit.
Such conundrums have characterised Mari’s career. As a designer he is too esoteric to have attained the commercial success enjoyed by fellow late 20th century Italian designers such as Ettore Sottsass and the late Joe Colombo. Yet the depth and complexity of Mari’s work ensures that he is greatly admired by the design community and, in his seventies, is still sought out as a designer.
Mari’s approach to design was predominantly theoretical. He was more concerned with its role in contemporary culture and relationship with the user than with becoming a design practitioner. After graduating in 1956 he opened a studio in Milan to continue his studies of the psychology of vision, systems of perception and design methodologies. These studies took physical form when Mari created three-dimensional models of linear elements and planes. Forced to earn a living, Mari made contact with the Italian plastic products manufacturer Danese and agreed to develop a series of mass-manufactured products.
Enzo Mari Resources