ADI Design Museum dedicates an exhibition to Alessandro Mendini and Marco Zanuso

ADI Design Museum shows the relationship between architecture and design according to two great protagonists: Alessandro Mendini and Marco Zanuso

A new exhibition at the ADI Design Museum, curated by Pierluigi Nicolin, Gaia Piccarolo, Nina Bassoli and Maite García Sanchis, compares the two great protagonists of Italian design and architecture through their architectural works and design products.

Discover ADI Design Museum


The exhibition consists in twelve chapters, six plus six, developed along the central space of the museum. Comfort, Nuova Estetica, Grande Scala, Costruzione Modulare, Innovazione, Muri in Pietra are the sections dedicated to Marco Zanuso; Alchimie, Global Toys, Decorazioni, Musei, Case, Testo e Immagine are those dedicated to Alessandro Mendini. At the end of the itinerary there is a special installation in the spaces dedicated to the Compasso d’Oro Lifetime Achievement Awards. There, two episodes offer a view of the iconic portraits by Roberto Sambonet and a summary of the life and works of the two protagonists.


Marco Zanuso had an important role and cultural weight in ADI. He served as president from 1966 to 1969 and participated in many jury panels, commissions, conventions and congresses. Among other things, ADI gave seven Compasso d’Oro Awards to Zanuso (including one for lifetime achievement). This does not mean that ADI has neglected the figure of Mendini and his work, as shown by his three Compasso d’Oro Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. “Equally certainly, the representation of the radical world in the history of the Compasso d’Oro is minority if not episodic,” explains Luciano Galimberti, ADI President.

Discover the exhibition about Alessandro Mendini at the Groninger Museum curated by Mendini himself


Italian design and its protagonists/antagonists

“Today, ADI and its museum have the duty, as well as the opportunity, to offer an accurate and original reflection on how Italian design is a real synthesis of emotions and rules,” Galimberti continues. An exhibition on these two protagonists is therefore an opportunity to open a broader reflection on the role of Italian design, recognizing the antagonists’ merit of having made Italian design great precisely through their antagonism.

Pierluigi Nicolin, who curated the exhibition, explains: “Dedicated to the work of two protagonists of Italian design, the exhibition is a tribute to their extraordinary ability to face the challenges and themes of design. Evidence of the firm determination of both is displayed throughout an itinerary that illustrates their ability to enhance the relationship between design and architecture, addressing the relationship between objects, people and inhabited space.”

A symmetrical exhibition itinerary

The stage where the comparison takes place – Nicolin continues – is the central route, delimited on each side by six modules/walls formed by a wooden cage, a shelving unit, a special typographic cage that acts as a support for the things on display. Photos, drawings, texts, objects that illustrate the main themes of each author are on the inner side, while the outer front is dedicated to insights and more detailed information on the things on display.”

The theme that emerges from the comparison between the two ‘Masters’ remains that of diversity in the processes, reproposing in different ways and at a distance of a few decades a question of great topicality such as the search for the relationship between design, architecture and the environment. Going beyond the Italian context, we can see how Zanuso’s ‘strong’ modernist themes and Mendini’s ‘weak’ postmodernist themes are based on the ability to invalidate the premises from which they start and, in the particular ‘sentimental journey’ that they share, we can see how each one ends up denying, in his own way, the existence of an impassable boundary to his own experience. [Ph: Martina Bonetti, courtesy ADI]

Marco Zanuso e Alessandro Mendini. Design e architettura
ADI Design Museum – 8 March – 12  June 2022

Related Articles


Agape: 50 years of excellence

“In realtà, volevamo fare dell’altro” (“Actually, we wanted to do something else”) is the title of the exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Agape, a company founded on the banks of the Mincio River in 1973.

Read more »