Richard Sapper, an industrial designer whose extraordinary career gave us the highly engineered Artemide Tizio Lamp, the Alessi Espresso Maker and the Sapper Kettle has died at age 83.
Sapper offered some clues as to what constituted a classic. “It’s when the form of an object establishes contact with you, and you have to interact with it, ... I am very interested in objects that move and change character. That’s the main theme of the Tizio, for example, or the 9090 Espresso Maker also has this nature — it makes noise, steam comes out of it, you see the condensation drops form. It starts to live.”
Born in Germany in 1932 but based in Milan, Richard Sapper created innovative products by mining the knowledge of far-flung disciplines. One of the few industrial designers never to have attended a school of design or architecture, Sapper studied philosophy, anatomy, engineering and economics. Sapper began his design career working in the styling department of Mercedes-Benz. In 1958 he went to Italy, where he worked with such luminaries as Gio Ponte, Marco Zanuso, and Gae Aulenti.
The 9091 Kettle, designed in 1972, was Alessi's first designer kettle, ushering in a long and successful tradition. The central element in the design is the brass whistle which, when the steam exits, produces a short and pleasant melody. Sapper wanted to avoid the usual anxiety-generating noise produced by other kettles on the market.
A ten-time winner of the Compasso d’Oro, Sapper created the incredibly successful Tizio table lamp for Artemide.
Called a ‘designer's dream,’ this revolutionary table lamp has a sleek, narrow body, adjustable counterbalanced arms and head and swivels smoothly in four directions. In 1972, the use of the lamp’s arms to conduct electricity was a never-before-seen feature, a true innovation representative of Sapper’s work.
The Artemide Tizio Lamp is available today with both halogen and LED options and in several sizes and has a floor support option.
Ernesto Gismondi of Milan-based Artemide asked him to improve the design of his own work lamp. Sapper wanted the light to have a wide range of movement and claim only a small amount of desk space. By happy chance the halogen light was invented at this time and it allowed Sapper to reduce the size of the head. Artemide began producing the Tizio light and it became a best-selling design icon.
Richard Sapper was especially revered by coffee connoisseurs for his stove top 9090 Espresso Maker, a graceful stainless-steel, machine that was introduced in 1979 by Alessi. For frustrated espresso drinkers, the new Alessi machine offers a nearly idiot-proof solution.
Originally named for the town of Cobán in central Guatemala, where Mr. Sapper’s grandfather had harvested coffee — the Alessi 9090 Espresso Maker is now in the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection.
Available in four size options, including the incredibly cute 1 cup edition, the highly designed Alessi 9090 Espresso Maker is able to go from the stove top to the table.
In over 50 years he designed more than 200 products and was an impressively versatile designer who created compelling visual objects.
The Alessi Todo Giant Cheese Grater took its inspiration from the fact that Sapper was in charge of grating cheese for his family. A precise, state-of-the-art functional object that transforms playful gestural expressiveness from one of the most boring and least interesting culinary operations.
The Alessi La Cintura di Orione Collection of pots and pans offers a more professional performance to cooking enthusiasts.
Richard Sapper designed just about everything, from cars to bikes to flatware to radios and televisions. He put a deftly erudite slant on all sorts of domestic objects, making them lucid in concept and elegant in their restraint. German precision meets Italian flare.