Designer Richard Sapper Dies

Sapper designed the iconic Coban espresso maker for Alessi, the Tzio lamp for Artemide and several other home furnishings
Posted on January 6, 2016 by Allison Zisko

SapperRichard3x2Richard Sapper
NEW YORK—Richard Sapper, a German industrial designer who created many iconic home furnishings for companies like Alessi, Artemide and B&B Italia, and designed the ThinkPad for IBM, died Dec. 31, 2015, in Milan. He was 83.

Sapper received several awards for his work, including 10 Compasso d’Oro awards, the Italian industrial design award, and many of his designs are featured in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

SapperSapper’s 9090 espresso maker, 9091 kettle and La Cintura cookware for Alessi
Sapper began his design career with Mercedes Benz but later moved to Milan in 1958, where he worked with architect Gio Ponti and then the department store La Rinascente. A year later, he teamed with architect Marco Zanuso, a partnership that lasted for many years and resulted in the development of several consumer electronics like radios and televisions. Sapper opened his own studio in 1959 and went on to create the award-winning Static table lap for Lorenz, the Tizio lamp for Artemide, and furniture for Knoll and B&B Italia, among other products. In the late 1970s, Alessi commissioned Sapper to create a stovetop espresso maker, the 9090. It was the beginning of a long and successful collaboration that led to several other iconic products, such as the melodic 9091 whistling kettle, the Coban electric espresso maker, La Cintura Di Orione cookware and the Todo grater.

Sapper also served as a design consultant IBM, for whom he created the ThinkPad in 1992, and worked in the automotive industry for companies like Pirelli and Fiat.

“Tempus fugit. Another of my maestros leaves,” said Alberto Alessi, president of Alessi Spa. “Together with Ettore Sottsass, Achille Castiglioni and Alessandro Mendini, Richard Sapper has been for me during the ‘70s a beloved maestro, unequalled for his surgical precision in translating the presence of his imagination into real industrial products close to perfection.

“I’ve worked with Richard for almost 40 years, since I asked him to design the first Alessi espresso maker—the 9090, in the catalog since 1979, winner of the XI Compasso d’Oro prize and selected for the New York MoMA permanent design collection. He has created for us some of the most iconic and timeless products of the last decades. And he has done much more—he has contributed to the building of the Alessi identity as an Italian design factory by helping us to understand with his projects and his design practice that industrial products may not be just merchandise, they can have a soul, a hint of transcendence.

“Always loyal to the principle: ‘My thinking process usually starts from a thing that I feel does not exist,’ Sapper was used to work[ing] on only a few projects at the same time, and only to those that really interested him. Like all good designers should do.”