As the eldest son of Carlo Alessi, he represents the third generation of the Alessi family, and officially joined the company in 1970, the day after he graduated from law school. One of his first projects was to overhaul the company’s corporate identity, commissioning Franco Sargiani and Eija Helander to work on graphic design and packaging as well as the company offices at Crusinallo.
Early collaborations with artists and sculptors such as Giò Pomodoro, Andrea Cascella, and most famously Salvador Dali, stemmed from his own personal manifesto of “offering the masses veritable artistic items at low prices.” This utopian view of design practice led Alessi continue his collaboration with Sargiani and Helander with Programma 8, launched in 1975 after a development period of five years. Influenced by the International Style architecture of the period, and hailed by Alessandro Mendini in 1979 as the “the most evolved system of domestic products created on an international level,” the concept was to radically overhaul the basic components used in table and kitchen services by creating a modular series of household items. The series was re-launched to great acclaim in 2005.
In 1972 Sargiani introduced Ettore Sottsass to Alberto, beginning a partnership that would span three decades and produce some of the company’s most iconic pieces, such as the 5070 condiment set, found today in thousands of bars and restaurants up and down the Italian peninsula. Sottsass in turn recommended Richard Sapper to the company, further enhancing the company’s reputation of working with key names in the field of international design. The design critic Alessandro Mendini began working with Alessi in 1977, a partnership that Alberto describes as being “almost telepathic.” As well as designing signature Alessi pieces such as the Anna G corkscrew, Mendini has worked with Alberto as a consultant on numerous projects, including two extensions of the factory at Crusinallo and the Museo Alessi, which opened in 1998.
During his time as CEO, Alberto has continually striven to work at the heart of international creative culture, thinking of his company as a “research lab in the Applied Arts.” His commitment to this ethos was most vividly seen in the 1983 project Tea and Coffee Piazza, an experimental post-modernist series of architectural statements designed for the table. An original idea by Mendini, the project saw eleven young international architects, all with no previous experience of industrial design, produce limited edition tea and coffee sets that explored new paths for Italian design in a historical context. As Alberto explained “Once in a while we need a bigger experiment, where the results are unforeseeable. That doesn’t make me a good businessman.” Both the “9093” kettle by Michael Graves and coffeemaker “La Conica” by Aldo Rossi were re-workings of these authors’ contribution to the Piazza series and have gone on to sell a million pieces since their launch.
Further key Alessi projects have included La Cintura di Orione with Richard Sapper and gourmet chef Alberto Gozzi; historical reproductions of Christopher Dresser’s landmark industrial design pieces from the Victorian era; Tea and Coffee Towers, a 2003 sequel to the Piazza project; and mostly recently Stefano Giovannoni’s collaboration with the National Palace Museum Taiwan, which became the OrienTales collection.
Alberto Alessi has written several books, including La Cintura di Orione (Longanesi, Milano 1986), Not in Production, Next to Production (Alessi Spa, Crusinallo 1988), and The Dream Factory (Electa, Milano 1998). During his career he has contributed articles for many international magazines and publications and been a visiting professor at several design colleges.
Alberto Alessi is a member of the Academic Board of the U.I.A.H., Helsinki and sits on the honorary committee of the Design Museum, London. He is a senior fellow of the Royal College of Art, London; honorary professor of the Hochschule der Bildenden Kunste, Saarbrucken; Doctor Honoris Causa of the U.I.A.H. of Helsinki; Doctor of Fine Arts at the Miami University of Oxford, Ohio; and, has an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Central England, Birmingham.
In 1998 he received the Design Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Brooklyn Museum of Art.