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Tomás Maldonado

(b. 1921)


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(1921– )

Argentinian‐born Maldonado, painter, industrial designer, and theorist, is known for his considerable influence on design thinking and practice in the second half of the 20th century. His reputation was established during his years at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) at Ulm where his influence was increasingly felt following his appointment in 1954. Maldonado believed in a systematic, scientific, and theoretical underpinning of the design process and played a key role in moving the curriculum away from its Bauhaus‐inspired beginnings towards an approach that was felt to be more appropriate to deal with the complexities of post‐Second World War living. He was also opposed to the rhetoric of American styling. Maldonado's new curriculum was introduced in 1958 and, from 1964 to 1966, Maldonado became the institution's rector. Maldonado's subsequent extensive academic involvements included the Lethaby Lectureship at the Royal College of Art in London in 1965, Visiting Senior Fellow (1966–7) of the Council of Humanities and Chair of the ‘Class of 1913’ 1967–70 at the School of Architecture at Princeton University, and a professorship in environmental planning (1976–84) in the School of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Bologna. In 1984 he transferred his professorship in environmental planning to the Faculty of Architecture at Milan Polytechnic where, from 1993, he coordinated the doctoral research programme in industrial design and, in the following year, established the first Italian degree course in industrial design. Maldonado's own practice was wide ranging and included the design of medical apparatus, office equipment, and precision instruments, as well as aspects of the urban environment. His consultancies included the Italian retailing group, Rinascente‐Upim. Maldonado was also active in the wider public dissemination of his ideas. At the 1958 Brussels World Fair he was a key speaker in the international debate on design and new industrial perspectives where he delineated the evolution of this new profession and the role of industrial design and society. He was particularly interested in promoting a scientific approach to design, an outlook embodied in an essay of 1960 on which he collaborated with another highly significant design thinker at the HfG at Ulm, Giu Bonsiepe. Entitled ‘Science and Design’ the essay contained many ideas that he later followed through in Design, Nature and Revolution (1972). He has published widely on architecture, design, and informatics including La speranza progettuale (1970), Avantguardia e razionalità (1974), Il fututro della modernita (1987), Reale e virtuale (1992), and Critica della ragione informatica (1997). He also edited a leading Italian design periodical, Casabella (1978–81). He has received substantial peer recognition including, in 1968, the award of the Design Medal by the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers (SIAD, see Chartered Society of Designers). From 1966 to 1969 he served as president of the Executive Committee of ICSID.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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