Enzo Mari Exhibition at Design Museum in London

Perhaps best known for his desk and wall calendars for Danese and his graphic apple and pear prints, Italian architect and designer Enzo Mari was a quiet—but not passive—genius. A major exhibition in London this spring and summer (March 29-September 8) spans Mari’s 60-year career, showcasing his incredible range. It includes furniture pieces, graphic design, and installations. I had the great privilege to interview Mari about 10 years ago in Milan. He was warm, humble, and charming.

Enzo Mari’s La Mela and La Pera prints of a simple illustrated red apple on the left and a simple green illustrated pear on the right.

Enzo Mari’s La Mela and La Pera Prints

Mari believed deeply in the idea that beautiful and useful design was for the many, not the few. He wanted his objects to be accessible, affordable, and to make a personal connection with the people who used them. He also connected with the artisans and manufacturers of his designs, ensuring that his objectives—functionality, quality, and cost—were met.

A series of 5 chairs made from bleached wood while each features a piece of colored metal as one of the limbs.

From Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione Collection

In 1974, Mari published the book Autoprogettazione, which included DIY furniture using only rough boards and nails. He was the original “maker” and instructed readers how to build practical and useful pieces with simple techniques. To Mari, the making was more valuable than the object.

Enzo Mari passed away due to complications related to COVID days before a retrospective of his work opened at the Triennale Milano in October of 2020. 

A wooden bench made out of basic, bleached wood from Enzo Mari on a tile floor.

From Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione Collection

Story by Stephen Treffinger

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