As the world mourns the revolutionary German industrial designer Richard Sapper, who died on the 31st December, The LuxPad takes a look back over his illustrious career. The creator of many iconic designs, from the ThinkPad for IBM to the 9090 Coffee Maker for Alessi, he focused on technically complex problems and even developed and designed large scale objects such as ships and cars.
He was born in Munich in 1932 and after living and studying there until 1954 he moved to Milan, not before adding a brief stint of working at Mercedes Benz to his portfolio. Joining the design practice of Marco Zanuso, he started a partnership that would yield some of the most iconic design pieces of that time. In 1972 he designed the Tizio lamp for Artemide, which later in the decade lead to a recommendation to Alessi from Ettore Sottsass, who described him thus ‘He’s the Tizio lamp guy, the guy who has never done a bad design.’
The 9090 coffee maker was the first product to come out from the Alessi partnership, and it was truly a landmark design for both the brand and Sapper himself. It was the first ever product for the kitchen from Alessi, up until that point their designs has all been for the dining or the living room. Amongst the many design accolades that Sapper could count the 9090 was awarded the XIth Compasso d’Oro. Today it is on display in the permanent collection at the MoMA in New York.
Richard Sapper followed up this design with the 9091, the world’s first designer kettle. Inspired by the sound of the steamers and barges that ply their trade on the Rhine, the hob kettle has a brass whistle whose pipes sing two notes, mi and si instead of the usual irksome sound of most hob kettles.
Back in 2014 at the London Design Festival Alberto Alessi told The LuxPad that his all-time favorite product was the 9090 coffee maker by Richard Sapper;
‘It has to be the first espresso coffee maker we produced, the Richard Sapper Espresso machine. Because firstly, it was a homage to my grandfather, it was also the first Alessi product to be on permanent display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And, it was also the first mass produced Alessi product specifically for the kitchen, people now associate Alessi with the kitchen but this wasn’t always the case. So yes, I think it definitely has to be the first espresso coffee maker.’
As well as an esteemed and revolutionary designer Sapper was also a dedicated academic and taught at prestigious educational establishments such as Yale University, Domus Academy in Milan and the Royal College of Art London. He received numerous awards for his products too; including 10 prestigious Compasso d’Oro awards and his designs are represented in the permanent collections of many museums internationally from MoMA to London’s V&A. Richard Sapper, his designs and contribution to the design industry as a whole will be remembered for decades to come.