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Only Architecture Will Be Our Lives

Peter Lung and \Y/ill~ar~Menkiig


Suicidal Desires

Peter Long


The Revolt of the Object



Memories of Superstudio

Cristiarro kraldo di Frarrcia


A House of Calm Serenity

Adolfo Na~alini


Journey to the End of Architecture

Piero Frassirrelli


Reflected Architecture

Superstudio: Historic Projects


196668. Superarchitecture: to the Rescue!



Superprojects: Objects. Monuments, Cities


1972-73. Superesistcnce: Life and Death



Supersimple: Elementary Architecture


Superstudio: Biographies


Superstudio: Exhibitions and Bibliography







Peter bng


In ,ronl

Only Architecture Will Be Our Lives

111 thore years it becarrrc uery clear that 10 contirrue to dcsigr~ fiirrrrrr~re,ob~ecrsarrd similar household decorariotrs ruas

rro solutiorr to problnrrs of liuirrg arrd 1101 euerr to those of life, arrd cue12 less could it serue to save one's otun soul It becarrre clear that rro beautrfication or cos~~~eric~uerentfficiio7t to rerrredy the darlrage of tinre, the errors ofnrarr arrd the bestiality $ of architecture The oroblern therefore was that of irrcreasirr~delac/~rrrenlfrorrz those activities ofdesigrr adopting perhaps the theory ofrrrinirrral force in a ~erreml"process of rrdrrctiorl".

:: 11





For those wl~o,like ourrelues, are conuirrced that arcl~itecturcis one ofthefew wags to realize cosrrric order on earth, to put thir~gs I:,5

to order arrd abouc all to affirtrr hrrrrrarrityi capacityfor acting accordir~glo reasorr, it is a "rrroderate utopia" to frrragirre a riear

frrture irr whicl~all arcl~itec~uretuill be created with a sir~~leoct,

frorrr a srrigle desrgn capable ofclarr~rngonce arrd for all the rrrotiue.r ruhich have irrdrrced rrran to build dolrrrens, nrrtlhirs, pyrarrrids, and bstly to trnce (ultirrra ratio) n luhrre line rn the desert. SUPERSTUDIO,The Corrfirruous Morrunrenr: Atr Arrhirec~ural

Modelfor Total Urbanrzation, 196Y


most graph~caspects of these 1960s protagonists to today's pub- 11c The collect~veshows lack, ho\r,ever, suffic~entspace to explore

~ndlv~dualgroups or speclfic actlons In greater deta~l'Though the many e~h~b~tlonsand dustrated catalogues have done a respectable





job of d~ssemlnatln~and consequently revlvlng the works of a pre- doni~nanrlvEuropean Rdd~calarchttecture movement over the last

mary materials from this period are simply hard to come by: This

is particularly unfortunate for SUI'BKIUDIO who seem quired the role as the Radical movement's cover-child.'

to have ac- Scant little

understanding SUPEIISTUDIO'Sprovenance and the group's rela-

tionship to the many cultural currents evolving through the Eu- ropean avant-garde in the 1960s. Since none of these takes place in the distant past, most of the original protagonists are still very active on the scene, though their current identities are not always transparently linked to their epic endeavours of youth. While clearly a thirty-year hiatus suggests a certain amount of aging many of the principal actors remain high- Iv enereetic and active in the field while their works remain tucked

the world's apparently boundless resources is now having to fight i to retain that dubious right. And just as Italy's cconomic miracle


ning of the new millennium. No better moment, then, to turn back the pages of history to that previous era when a similarly ample crisis ripped through rhe world economies: welcome to Italy in the


remains to be seen, however, is whether the recent 1960s' revival

emerging in the schools and in some of the more progressive of- fices goes beyond mere fashion trends.'

we are ironically trawling into a new kind of pop-~rpculture!

A definitive and momentous transformation took place in the design and architectural environment by the late 1960s: the in-

creasingly debilitating crisis in Modernist architecture would find

some of its most laconic last acts played out on the drawing boards ~reciselvhere in Florence. Each group challenged and eventuallv














cia. Roberto Maeris. Piero Frassinelli and Alessandro Magris were

sewed to indoctrinate society into an irrelevant culture of con-

rators were trusted with their time and given open access to their remaining collection of projects and library. This publication has therefore been planncd and organizcd to

seme as a portable reference focusing primarily on su~ensru~ro's entire cities, creating a monument to end all monuments. sulm-

critical writings i~rrelation to their better-known body of designs and architecture. One of the most unexpected conclusions we as curators can draw from our invo~vementwith SUI'ERSTUDIO is just how conscious the group was from the outset of the historical im- portance of its investigations: SUPElUTUDlO maintains an impres-

sive archive that from the start nieticulously docutnents

folding process of its critical research. While it's evident upon ex-

amining the material presented here that their most renowned im-

ages describe the momentous steps in thc group's

development, these inlages can only

torical passage. For this reason we have decided to initiate an op-

eration of recovery, restituting

writings - critical texts and storyboards - that are far less familiar

but entirely necessary in providing a more complete understand-

ing of the group's oeuvre.

'l'he timing for this revived interest in the 1960s' counter-cul- ture is not that arbitrary either: we are again at a point where the convergence of technology and consumeristn, in its current so-

called free market state is spinning steadily out of control: the

providcs related documentation on SUI~E~STUDIO'Stheoretical and

evocative images, the series beginning in 1969 titled The Conlin- uor~sMonumen~,spread its glacially translucent grid structures throughout entire regions of the planet enveloping buildings and


$: !

ii 1.

STUDIO'S renouncement of architecture, their conscious withdrawal from the perverse system based on the con~mercialisationof pop- ular demand, was deliberately intended to strip architecture of everything except its most naked living truth.

This publication is structured into two basic parts. Part I features the nvo curators' essays exanlining SUPEIUTUDIO'S history within the Florentine context ("Suicidal Desires", Peter Lang), and an essay on su~e~uru~ro'spenultimate moment on the larger international sccne ("The Revolt of the Object", William Menking), and includes the retrospective testimonials and critical reflections from three of SUI~EI~TUDIO'Snlembers: Adolfo Natali- ni, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and Piero Frassinelli. Part I1 is divided into the following four chapters:

1. 196G68: SUI'EW~C~~ICCIU~Eto the Rescue! 2. 1969-71: SUI'Ellproj~ctr:Objects, Monuo1cnts, Cities

3. 1972-73:

SUI'ERexlsle~lce: Life and Death

4. 1974-78: su~>e~i~nple:Elementary Architecture

the un-


partly convey the complete his-

in the process those projects and


In Part I1 each chapter engages in a specific historical moment and $:



12 small percentage of the global population still able to command

practical responses. The goal is to publish the group's niost sig-

nificant projects along with a related collection of images and their accompanying writings, storyboards and photos. While this pub- lication is nor intended to become a catalogue raisonnk on the works of SUI>ERSTUDIO,it has been conceived as a work of con- sultation and reflection. Here every atteliipt has been made to pair significant texts and storyboards to their corresponding architec- tural projects. This introductory essay will navigate through some

of the peak episodes that mark

SUPERSTUDIO'S architectural pro-

the catchall phrase used to regroup the variety of tendencies that

have aspired to shake off the liegemonic grip of modernist archi- tecture in the 1960s. Radical architecture is an ambig~~ousmultive. lent term that suggests different and clearly contrasting meanings. Andrea Branzi, one of the founding members of Archizoom, writ-

ing in 1973, gave this impression on the breadth of Radical move-

ment: "Today the term 'Radical' architecture assembles at the in- ternational level allof the eccentric experimentation with regard to

the straight line of the profession: counterdesign, conceptual archi- tecture, primitive technologies, eclecticism, iconoclasm, neodadism. "'

Gianni Pettena, another Radical player active at the

time in Florence, insists on giving the movelnent a more sinuously

weaving the 111-

gor~o~irexperiments of the Californian Radicals to the more self-con- scious language emerging in England, Austria and Italy,whose works result from far deeper frustrations characterizing the profession in Europe.'" In effect. Pettena's panoramic view of the movement cor- rectly depicts the international exchanges, through publications, en- counters and exhibitions, while devoting considerably less time to the msny provincial accents buried in the chaos of translation, mis- reading, and local cultural wrangling. Finally Emilio Ambasz's conception for The Neru Dorncrtic Lorzdrcope makes the point that even \\,ithin Florentine circle of vi- sionary architects there \\.ere several contradictory positions re- garding the role of ilrchitecrurc and design -let alone radical pol- itics. The weakness in establishing ;In umbrella definition for the Radical architecture movement therefore remains, we believe, in the often-contradictory positions held by these distinctive activist groups. The Radical bind between the groups does not necessar- ily imply that there were common denominators linking one to an- other, as clearly those who saw themselves as neodadists were not necessarily willing to also act as nomadisrs. Branzi's intent was to underscore just how insidiously the work of such a diverse num-

14 ber of subversive credos were penetrating the 1960s' mainstream


fluid radiance, albeit with continental distinctions,


The quickest link between the two groups SUPERSTUDIO and

coming out of a particularly Florentine phenomenon that could, we

the scenes, the story of just how the two groups were founded is tied as much to circumstances as it was to a prescient vision.''

circle in the early 1960s, was asked by the Jolly gallery in Pistoia to mount a second show of his paintings in November 1966. In-

to Corretti, Paolo Deganello and Massimo Morozzi chose the des-

his exhibition manifesto.

first date would have turned out to be catastrophic. On 4 No- vember, an Italian national holiday, the Arno river overran its

banks, flooding Florence and the rest of the valley. Natalini recounts

how he found himself almost

the night on the graphics for the Modena exhibition poster." In need of a dry place ro work, Natalini went to his friend Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, who knew of a place to rent on high ground.

Shortly aftenvards they founded together the first SupERSTuDlo of- fice at Via Bellosguardo 1. SUPERSTUDIOreally only appears in some kind of recognizable form some time after the second show in Modena, lagging a bit behind Archizoom." In fact, it would take roughly a year for Adol- fo Natalini and Cristi:mo Toraldo di Francia to collectively gath- er their forces to give a philosophical foundation to SUPERSTUDIO. Natalini's thesis project on an art centre for Florence, begun in 1964 under the direction of Leonardo Savioli, influenced him to study Louis Kahn. From Kahn, Natalini immersed himself in the histo- ry of monuments, a work that he himself has qualified as a work benveen "pop and the monumental".'~oraldodi Franciak thesis presented in 1968, a "Machine for Vacations", represented a di- alectical investigation into technology and the evolving social realm. In 1967 Roberto Magris entered the Bellosguardo office, adding his experience in working within the industrial design field. Piero Frassinelli joined SUPERSI'UDIO in early April 1968. Fmssinelli's university research combined anthropology with architecture, a background that provided him with exceptional skills in writing and storytelling.'' Over the course of 1967, SuPERSTuDIO laboured to establish three categories for future research: the "architecture of the mon- ument"; the "architecture of the image"; and "tecnomorphic ar- chitecture". Natalini's 1966 thesis on the Palazzo dell'Arte served as the initial genesis for the group's work on the architecture of the monument, later developed with greater refinement in the competition for the Fortezza da Basso completed in 1967. The sec- ond category, on the architecture of the image, inspired the graph- ic-visual research behind the beguiling renderings that became the group's renowned signature. The architecture of the image provoked an extensive visual experimentation into techniques and appliques, appropriating from diverse sources, such as collage, pop art, cinema and dada.ln Toraldo di Francis's university thesis set the stage for a scientific-basedresearch, using technology as an interface medium for architecture." From these preliminary three categories developed the first major critical project proposed by SUPERSTUDIO:the Journey info theRea11nojReason, an illustrated storyboard created to serve as

"maps for orientation

under water as he worked through

describing the unfolding relationship

16 benveen natural and artificial environments. This pictorial exege-







P~sloia.December 196G Adolo Nalalnl. Andrea Bran28

and Masslmo Morozz, ICr#rliano

Toraldo dl Francla 1s laklng

the p~c~urel


26 progressive visions on man and his relation to the built envi- ronment. The storyboard narrative, already developed as a form

office, in that they attempted to create more than a semblance of a legitimate practice, while all the while seeking to enzlsperate the

per" charged actions. The "super" code of conduct required that

homes and offices of a prospecrive well-off clientele. They were "super-operators", and as such producers of designs and objects that would be over-loaded with symbolism and poetic content. As SUPERSTUDIO'S designs confounded the sense of scale and objec- tive significance, the unsuspecting user \vould find him or herself bccoming part of the critical process of the design. The making and shaping of these objects were consistently re- lated to bricolage techniques, assemblies from exisring manufac- tured productions, or adaptations from outside industries, such as

suporr~d~otn ,ha vfa ~CIIL


Mantcllato olllce









these subvers~veobjects they reallzed "ln~t~ateda new level of con sumerlsm, and consequently another level of poverty" '"Havlng recoenlzed the futllltv of the strategy, SUPE~TUDIOretrenched.


Just l~kethe m in had become powerful tool for all 11sbare slm-

pllclty, SUPERSTUDIO called for people "


pract~calfunctlon and a contemplative one and ~tIS the latter that I

evasion des~gn1s seeklng to potentlate Thus there 1s an end to the 19th-century myths of reason as the explanation of everything, the thousand varlat~onson the theme of the four leaned chalr, aero

to live l~keone long

Every object has a





", to engage In a life long "

be in





suPcnsTuDro made yet another leap foniard, abandoning the last vestiges of a market-driven architecture, erasing once and for all

plest a physlcal bar graph, the addltlon of the histograms to the

for other more pressing activities. "We prepared a catalogue of tri-dimensional non-contin"ous diagrams, a catalogue of histograms of architmure with reference to a grid transportable in diverse areas or scales for the edification of a nature both serene and immobile in mhich we might finally recognize (re-know) ourselves. From the catalogue of histograms followed effortlessly objects, furniture, environments and archi- tecture But all these things didn't matter much, nor have they ever mattered much. The surface of such hisroarams was homo-

were also called 'the tombs of the architects'"."





with the four members posing at its base, and an owl in the fore- front gliding straight towards the viewer. The image, a morbid group critique, nonetheless came in the shape of a riddle. A sort of death wish so beautiful and entrancing that the message really didn't seem to matter.














ro produce a body of work which was more or less divided betwecn representing the form of .I 'Continuous Monument' as a mute ur- ban sign and proclucing a scricr oivignertcs illustrating ,I world from

work varied from

the projection of

which consumer goods had !xen elilninated Their


by Adolfo Nntalinl, started in

1966 ~~y'~,",:$'~~,",","~~,",':"I






v~st~m~cnetrnblemeg.~l~rhs,f~cedin mirror-&ss.

to thc <lcpicrlonof 3 sr~ence.fictionIsndscape in which nature had been rcndcrcd benevolent '.i'The whole operation, Frampton may t,e suggesting, should not be ~nterprete<las n form oc-

cupying an existing Ian~lscope,but instcnd J plisntom projection across.3 strangely .~ltcre<lspari.~l.ten~por.~lcont~nuu:~~."

Charles Jencks preferred to inrcrprct


35 3Jacobin ~rchitecture,rcvo~utionorybu! despotic He failed ul-


~l~sorcleringcol~rrolmcclinnis~n Fur if Jencks was not convinced that the Monument's haunting mcss~gccoul<lbe so f.~lse,Kenneth Frampton's interpretation of SUI~~KS~~DIOpicked up on a counter c~~ltur~lmessage, that he recognized to be veiled bclou the image

rlrnately in recollciling tlic ironic self-cr~tquethat

itself. ' Bcyoncl the rule of thc perforrn~nceprinciple" noted Framp. ton, 'u.h~chthe philosopher Herberr Marcuse had alread) char.

~cterircdas defit~lng11feIn tcrms of

gooJs. surlLmrunro projecte<ln sllenr. anti-futurisr :~ncltechno-

logicslly optimistic utopia

n~ficnntthat (~JI'LRSIUUIO chose to represent sucl~3 non-repress~ve world in terms of an arcl~itecrureth~twas virtually invis~blc,or. where v~siblc,totnlly uselcss an11 by clcs~gnauto-destructive" '

" According to Frnml)ron. 'it 15 s~g.

instruments .lnrl consumer

Frampton's read on \uPrnrl~o~~comes ~nllchncarer to the group's original intent, ~III111scommentary .~lsoconfirms tl1.11 fir. C'utrt~trr~utrr.\lotrr~rnr,~r/~vasnor so cloakc<lin irony alld alnbigul.


I, .I, to lack legibilirv turrnsrunro c<lnscio~~slyexamined



laycr ~n the proccss of <lesign2nd arch~tcctureand butlt its


nntive para<ligm, onc step ~t ti~neAs Natalini cmphasizc~l "By tht. destruction of objects, \\,c mean tlie destr~ctionof their ar- tributes of 'srarus' 2nd the conr~ot.ltionsilnposcd t,y powcr, so that we live w~thobjects .reduced to the con<lirionof ncurro! and

oi thc

city, we man tlic elin~in:~rionof the accumulation of formal struc- tures of power - the elimin~tionof thc clty 3s Ilier~rchy~ndso- cial model, looking for n new freeeg~litarianmte, In \vIiich cvery- one can reach <lifferenr gralles in the rlcveloprncnt of his possi. bilities, b~.g~nningfrom equal starting i)oinrs. By the enJ of work, we mean the end of spcci:~lize~lon4 rcpcritive work Seen as an

disposable elements) 2nd nor for objects. Dy thc elimination

or) Lrlcr /or C'l, I'rr~ttronitio,rr

bfitrrmi, appe~ringin the D~elnberI971 ISSU~of AD. 111ahnost

"lded" city the pre<lominanttlic~nuu,os aI)out blind fnitli in rccli-

.\lyrticol RL.birrhu/ Ur.



nological salvntion and the looming cffccrr of the Amcrica~~iz~t~on

hobitants, exccpt ~nsome cast. \!.here

one might think of dcvia~~ng

"'l'he inh~b~tantsIlve ~n the machine endlessly drugged along


conveyor bclrs, by chutes and pneulnaric tubes from tllc time of birth to rhc rilnc of death The machine takes c~reof cvc~thing. along the innumcrJbls routcs \vliich intersccr, unltu and divide 3ccording to the ~ncolnprehensit,lcprogrnmming ol the m~chinc. Thc inhi~bitnntsf~ndfood and (car, sleep an11 juy, sex nl~dhope. death ~nllanger, solnetimes also rcbcll~on,bur thcy know very well 11131if they get off rlieobl~g~ror~rou:es established by the InJ- chine, they will rncvitat>ly bc crushucl by 11s mach~nery."" Once SUPLKS'rLDIO finlshcrl prod~lc~ngthe 7ir r9lve7~lr,r,thcy




lislicd a short uns~gneclreview on pagc 29 titlcd '12 Citti dcl fu-

turo" (I2 cities of the future^.'. 'l'he revieu~errum~rkccl."l'hc

ternativc 1)rol)os3lsby Super-studio' appear in succusslon Inscd on ar! im~ginary,iml)oss~ble:lnJ playfid archirectu~"An inrcw.~u.~tIi A~lolfoNat~linifollowed. Natal~ni,in any event, hncl sent our scv- era1 dozcn copies of the 7ir;,lvL, 7hlr.r to Italiar p~pers,including I1 .\lotrdu. I1 .\lutrdu's cultural c<litorduring tlicsc ycars wns lt~lo ZI


I Though the connection remains speculative - what kind of influ- ence would the svPEllsruD1o piece have had on Calvino if he had indeed read it in 1971 - the coincidence nonetheless renlains in-

triguing. Calvino's short stories had a vast influence on the gener-

public, not to mention a whole generation of architects. Anoth-

er cautionary tale? Also durine this time sulJaHs.ruolo began the production of its


I background In one rnemorable scene wh~lethe rhythlns are heard n~elodlcallvIn the backeround the astronauts. seen feedme on


the effects arc indeed at times simplistic, but nonetheless power- ful precisely because the hypcr-gadgetry of space-capsule life is sud- denly reduced to a tribal ritc." A poetic re~niseerr sci.~iein which the real protegonis;~are the histogram objects that penetrate the galaxy. SUI'ERSTUDIO'S incursion into the world of film begins far from earth: evcrvrhinn, "from the moon to the planets is archi-

a nostalgia precisely for primal knowledge on earth. In 1972 I;UI'EIISTU!JIOoarticioated in thc Museum of Modern

1 Their ~nssflor~plastic lamp was selected by the show's cuntor Emilio Ambasz for the "Obiects" section of the exhibit. In addi-

logue.'" This project, which took the form of a small plastic mod- el, repeated ro infinity in a cubed light box. As they describe it is

reconsideration of thc relations between the process of design and the environment through ;In alter~lativemodel of existence"." The images reproduced in the catalogue ore nine variations from their film project Life, Srrpcrsurfnce and remain one of their



reconsideration of domestic space. SUPERS.rUDIOcollage their slick V?kf drawings of satellites, desert landscapes and people in the act of fa-

"no intention of doing withoutn."She is depicted sadly marooned amid her appliances on r small grass island in the middle of a plane "wirhout any messages in bottles". In the catalogue this im- age is the foil for another, The Disinril Mou,lroin, urhich portrays a youthful sybarite world of nomadic pleasures not enslaved to de- signed objects of mass consumption but free to experience their

to remove all commercially driven clutter from the object, or the architecture: as in their FiueSuburbor~I'illos project, each super-

titr~rorrsrMo,~a,~eri~indecorously neutralized layers of gratuitous his- torical symbolisms associated with the making of monumental ar-

beginning with

the MOCIA show, sought to re-conceptualize the position of urchi-

tecture altogether They discarded the role of the crenor the de

group moved to espouse the

complete reversal of the normative condition, to switch roles, co find architecture in one's olun life.

signer, the architect. Instead, the

outside this burdensome dichotomy. SUIXI&UDIO,








tempts to rake arcliitccturc onto n dlffcrent philosophic~lplnte.111. Renvecn 1972 2nd 1973. Carrhrllo published $I'PEIL%TL'DIO~tto-

rybo~rds~ndtexts for tl~cFIIC,F1~11da,,:r,it.7lBctr: I.r/c. Edtica-

Death. The prolecr, of tre~nc.ndousscope

!to,:, Ct,n,,~to~ty,Lo1 C, and

~ndvision, conternplntes the existence of rhc architect, the WIIII(,

co~~tplrton Iifc. Coriccivcd as :an experimental film opus, orily I.r/e,

St~prrrt~r/accand Ccre,~o,r) were completed

in f~l~nversion. SN-

pr,rrt,r/.rn,, a collage anllnntion with its flnnl scquencc filmcd out-


Solo charr

dcrnically founded stilrl) on the making of peasnnt tools and shel- tcrj. The move cotr~cidedwith rhe co-tounding ot Global Tools 111

1973, a sliort-IivcJ but s~gri~ficontmcctlrlg of niirids bcrwccn rlic far flurig rncmbcrs of the Radical .~rchitccturelnovemcnt. Their collecrivc str~tcg~es,though never renl~zcdw:rhln rh~ss:lmc en- selnble, nonetheless moved parallel with the SUI~CR\Iur~ro'ssccond phase oiproduction. Rut it should be clex that \\,hat SLI'ER~TUD~~

brought to their phase of research was the intcrisivc

desire not to

doors in nature with n )oung couple, was screened for the MO\IA repeat the forrnul~th~rwould onl) serve to prolorig the conuncr-

~131rnnrkct.oriented cxplolt3tion of the deigrl profession Of course

shot IIVC ~nFlorcncc the follo\v~n; year: The illustr:~tedtcxts for tlils would he hy riow irnposs~blcto persevere, liowcver, given the

thc Frfih Ftorda111e,,t.11Act Death wns set to a slidc show atth nn audlo soundtrack. 'rhc FILCF!l~~dr~t~~~~t.71Acts \\,ere published In series in rtor) honrd forrnx. Llke the one for T/>/,r~Co~tt~~tt,~trrAlo~t-

IO?IPN~,the stor)boards for the I:r~cFIOI~~IIIL~N~~/~~C~Twere d~d~ctic

In nnturc. sUllEalulIto's rn3nifcsto states:

"Architecture never touches the great thelnes, the fundnrnen- 131 tliclncs of our lives. I\rcliitecturc relnains 3t the limit, arid In- tcrvenes only 31 3 ccrta~ripoint in tlic process, usually when hc- hnviour 113s dreadYbeen entlrely codified, furnishing answers to rigidly stated problems Even if 11s answers .Ire nberr:lnt or evn.

exhibition TI>?Nero Do,~rrtrcLn~~drcapc~n 1972.' CP~L~IIIOI~)wns

strurncnts nccuratcly predisposrd to avold nny dev~arion 'rhc working-class holnc rcsernbles a st3tcly vllln in the sarnc 1t13y3s tlie dcsi<n of 3 Radical .irchitect that of :~riacadernlc or re- :~ction.~rynrcli~tcct.thc differcnce Ires only in the quantities ir~ play, thv decisions on the of ltv~nghnvc 31rc3dy hcen made. Accepting his rolc, the nrchitcct bccolnes nccornplice to the rnachu~at~or~sof the system Then the architect fds one of the nost r~gldlyhxed roles dike the young lover 111 pl.~ys~. This tent~ttveanthropologicnl and ph~losophicalfound.iriori of architccturc becomes the centre of our reductive process."" SUI'LIISTUD!~,one lnlght nrgue, succeeded In cleansing ~rchi- tccture of all so-rces of contamlnntlon The only quancl.iry that \\,auld reman, of course, is what does In fact arcli~rccturclook likc \\,hen )ou have the chance ro hcgln all over, \vhcn you c3n expc- rlencc 11 through merely Ilv~n~,when you move freely 3cross the lsndscnpe rns~den clty of tlic mind' File Ftrndarnrtifol ,Icfr srrs in motion such a level of dcstabt- lization that there would in f.1~1he ~lrnostno recourse to .iction pos- s.ble :~fterwnrds,no sequel truly possible. After 1973, the work of xPcunr)~oentered by fiar into 3 seconcl plirse ~riwliicli the group. ns Peter Lang polnts our in Su~cirlnlDesirss". reconsrirutcs thcm- selves as best 3s the) cln, by shifting llle ~OCLISof the11 resenrch on.

26 to building blocks ~hemsclvcs,rlirough .in inrensivc aca-

rnentir~griot just the style of life 111 the far renchcs of the Italian cour~tryslde,hut nlso the rigours of poverty. It Iielpcd to dcvclop

liantly creative iri the use of rcc)cled matcri~ls,energy conscrvn- tion, distributed recourses. 3rd multiple uses. The resc3rcli and

tcrial Cultt,rc project suggests some very inrerest~ngaltcrnntive p~hsto folio\\, now.

If SUI~EWTUDIOhas succeeded in contributing to any particu- lar lesson to inventing a f~~turearchitecture, it would be not so much the individual "pieces" as it would be the process itself, the strict critical vision focused on their own roles in the much larger chain of production. This process of repeatedly and critically re-esam- ining the normal drifts and currents moving across the domestic landscapes has led them to design, or perhaps more appropri;~te- ly to un-design their surroundings like no other group before or after them. We are far enough along again to perform similarly crit- icnl interrogations and we hope as the editors of this project that SUPCRSTUDIO'S contribution may be to take another, criticr~llook at the objects that surround our lives.




Dcyong plsced


hlonumenrContinu 1969".

xrsms", rcprinted in /'I,,.mucll emphasis on



vr,rrro,re dell,,


merabolis~r'influences re-

April 2001. 80).

~iorrni Wr,,,r,ir,. ~r;lnal. Knrding~helrdlidnRroupa. " A. Brrnzi. "lnrroduc-

Peccr iMil;>n: Cdi- rmni Print. 1972. 19).

' aut~t.t~~iuoto.'The


ciun". ~n1.' Nuvoncand R.

S. Dcyonp. "M~.morica of

I~L. Urban Foturc", in T. Riley. ed The (%d,igbrg


tinuourMonluuc~~t".Du,~~irrbc,lvu,rr.G~rrdc; \/I/iria,,un. tnenti di C;lr.thclla, 1974. (no. 481, Dccember 1969). Arcl~irccrrrriDnirm,,~g~/n,~,,14). Brrnri strc>serlin ;I rc-

' 'I'he ~um~"lndicitl", f~rr~rbcllor~wrdGi/~~~i,r<.;,ll,(/r,c. cent ~nrervieu,rh.1 It~clical

coined by Ccrmnno CrLnr rion (Ne\r. York: a!oat,\, rrcbi~cc~urei~~;lr"not ;l rcc.

to describc ;) \rhole

of arustic pracricer, ir too A aut,r.siuoto. dirbdndcd

g~ncrrl.~herurhonbeliwc, in 1986, rcconsrirured ir.

t~d~crihthcspec~ficrni-,elf in rhc 1990s lo bcr~cr a bix rhcmc . Percr L~ny

li~~~l0f~u1~1361~~1O:bucn,c adminirrcr ixr current






2002. 31).

opniznble lungudgc" rnd rhdr ir encornpurred "

m;my rmdly:oups


and 1Villi.lm Menkinx. in-

ic.11~:Design and Archi-

rccrurc 1960/75", in VI bbgrir joincd in 1967. ,Lf\.lortr" l,rrenirrri,~~~nI~~del- Picro Fr.~rsinelli in 1968

foundcn in 1966. Roberto

"'C.Pcrrenu, "Archicer~uia Redicale", in Arc11,r~clrrre mdicdcnle icir. 11).

It,B;e,,rrolc dr Ve,iez,n. cx. md Almsandm Magr~s~~nd " Roben Vcnruri. Dcnisc


rcnce: Ven~ll;~bro.1996);

Arch,rrcrrrr nalrnb,eshi. Frb~ncesUrunror 1rdns1;ttcd highly respec14 nnlong [he

bl~ioocnh~logue.Villcur- sulan.\ruolc tcrts from

b.>nne. Inrritut dirr con- lelian ro Cn~lirhfor thc ICI~I~M~I>- ~,i(.,Jt~nuory- internrrionsl journals and

blay ZOO1 iBlrcclon;l: Di.

agon;llc, 2001); D. Sourif, : Pop-ups ure thole n;~p toon~ucbnrchi~ec~ure.~e


,ru IY68-IY8Y, cxh~hirlon tisenlenrr chsr ere increar.,dogue(Ilorrncc:iM&IM, ingly jumping onto the 2002): 7'brCl~n,rgbigo/~/1~~computur screens.

Ava~ir-Gurdc, exhibi~ioll "For n de~uileddircuns~on other excrmlc in the orhcr



Aleaarndro Poli in 1970. 1'011 lcfi rhc group in 1972.


our. \vho,c

writlngr \r.erL.

Radical community, wcrc


metx: 'IIo\r,e\,er.

no erclli-

magazines. lect~rel6~OLhe PIIS\YCI 10

xlng lirrle lnrerner rdver-

rerction of thc anti-archi-



~ilear the endless fondling ofiirelev;mr rubdccicr rr chc


C.ICJIO~~~,Ne\v York, Thc Mureurn of Modern Arr

on the contemporaly Icgil. cy of aut'altiruolo rec D,

mafizinm, though il is por- sibly Ins hrrn~fulonly bc-


(New York: ,~~ostn.2002).

Rouillard. "Supcrr~udio: cure ir seldom gels builr.

hibir. concetved ro displt~y 1982.

primsrily thusis projec,s. l'ct~.r L;mg, inturvieiv a.ir11 Adolfo h';t,;lli[~i iFlorcncu.

:" I'erer L.lng. inrcr!,iew wtrh Crnstl;~noTorsldo di Fr.lncl;~ (Filotrfilno. 7 De-

cember 2002).


I4 Decembcr 2002) For rhe lncn>hcrs of

",ngits ~pllyscc~lem-

bodimenr. This is onc oi rlie srgumcncr developer1 in Peter Lnnx's essay "Sui.


1973. Xr57).

" {hid

". lb,d



to its soundrmck, and re- quires further res~omcion.


1r;llion voice avcr. !r.ilh

soundrrack, producerl by

" lhrrl

" rbrd 2.18--19.


of Italian mass soci- culture. That \vould

be the accomplishment of

to promote private investments to the exclusion of

all else. Private initiatives in housing were given a "free hand", urith no co~itrolsplaced on land uses, adequate service facilities like

parks or parking lots, nor sufficient safety regulations

proper building methods.' The results were

sl>eculative buildings spm\rrling

ripheries and under reinforced buildings tragically collapsing in known high-risk earthquake zones. Italians were becoming more mobile, more urban, more en- atnoured with their object world, but adapting to this new con- sumer-oriented lifestyle inevitably meant ruptures to traditional habits. Economic expansion came late relative to other European countries, but the symptonls of estrangement among the post-war Italian middle classes bore the common traits of similar Western industrialized countries. The gro\\~ingprosperity within the Ital- inn society exposed ever-deepening rifts urithin the communities

randomly through the urban pe-

catastrophic, with

to ensure

were designed

Fascist regime contributed to the invention ety, but did not construct a mass consumer

the post-war governments, whose laws

at large, as well as intergenerational conflicts. During the 1960s the


population in the national university system doubled to

half a

nill lion students, providing sufficient momentum behind

the rise of a mass student culture.' This gradual slide towards social breakdown was brought in- to explicit view through the work of some of the country's most creative cinematographic artists. As Siegfied Kracauer noted, "the more life is submerged, the more it needs the artwork, which un- "'

seals its withdrawnness and puts its pieces back in place

thetic manifestations depicting the general malaise of Italy's up- wardly mobile classes and alieliated youth increasingly surfaced in the arts and in cinema by the mid-1960s. After La rlob vita was released in 1960, Federico Fellini turned the camera on himself and his profession, creating in 1963 Eight and a Hnlf, a spectacu- larly personal inquiry and psychologicalconfession on the existential state of cinema and society. Michelangelo Antonioni in his 1964


film Red Desert, constructed a spiritually deprived vision of post- war Iraly that was her~neticall~linked to a devastated landscape

of smog-choked fiactoriesand polluted landscapes. As the characters move with empty gestures through Red Desert's world of manu- factured sensations, only a siren-like song seems to penetrate the

ambient stupor. The primal recall remains an insidious

of a simpler past, a symbolic metaphor that would find its echo in the reflections on che builc environment among the young gener- ation of architects who would form the nucleus of sUl%l<n'ut11().' Over the course of their activities, SUl~ElaTUDlOelaborated on

the grand themes of alienation, rationalization, neuroses, therapy

32 and the visceral fortns of suicide. These themes informed the un-


derlying critique that constituted the group's thoughts and actions from the initial founding in 1966 to thelate 1970s. But these epic themes also can be seen to reflect tnore formulative life trajecto- ries. The story of SUPEilSTUDfO,whose beginnings are announced in the historical staging of the 1966 Superarchitectnre exhibit in Pistoia, finds its inception in Florence's rebellious youth culture. SUPLRSTUDIO'Sgenesis, in fact, cannot be linked to a specific stu- dent movetnent - the six members of the group did not come from the same ideological background or belong to the same student

tablished its characteristic identity.' In many aspccts SUI'ERSTUDIO was formed just as their name implied, as a "super-office", a de- sign and architectural office that happened to have an extremely deep and foreboding sense of history and belligerent behaviour. Yet to understand SUI~LRSTUDIOit remains essential to under- stand the university climate that existed in Florence during the 1960s, precisely because the generation of students who complet- ed their edu~ltionthere were marked much differently than else-

modernization; the university administered itself as the pedantic gatekeeper of this very same cultural legacy, and thc more innov- ative faculties found themselves isolated if not removed from par- ticipating in the city's architectural and urban development. The

different directions. These are therefore the issues to follow in or-

der to get to the heart of suPel?srumo's deeply internalized rebellion against architecture.

entire national university was put to test in the 1960s, pres-

sured by students and many of thc faculties to renovate the archaic


gree. Zevi's American connections and deep dedication to re- forming Italian architectural culture had immediate impact on post-war debates. He quickly established under the aegis of AI'OA the first "organic school" in Italy inspired largely by Frank Lloyd Wright. Many younger Italian architects joined efforts with Zevi

in reconstituting the Roman scene. One of the challenges was to re-evaluate and re-conceprualize a contemporary architectural style that could reconcile both Modernist and Neo-classical contami- narion from rhe Fascist period. Over thc next decade. Mario K- dolfi, Adalberto Libera and Luigi Moretti among others, developed an urbanistic architectural language that, through the sponsorship of IN,\-Casa, the State-subsidized housing authority, succeeded in promoting the development ofan urban-scale hybrid Modernism combining labour intensive craft-work with advanced concrete frame technol~gies.~ The urban fabric in and around Milan was heavily damaged dur- ing the drawn-out allied bombing campaigns. As the country's major economic centre, reconstruction proceeded quickly. The development of the city's regional master-plan, conceived with the participation of the Milanese members of CIAM, went largely un-


challenged by the city's traditional planning strategists. The

Inent. for Architectural Studies (MSA) was founded in Milan in 1945 with the goal of opposing a traditional academic education.

The Lombard city was already predisposed to developing a Func- tionalist and Neo-rationalist style of architecture to plug the many damaged sites. Milan's publication houses quickly became the principal platforms for national debates on the future of Mod- ernist architecture. Ernesto Narhan Rogers took over Dornrrs from Gio Ponti in 1946 and then moved over to launch an improved

1954 (the magazine remained under his di-

rection until 1967). In 1947 the Milan Triennale opened its VIII edition featuring the most recent post-war developments in social housing and urban reconstruction. Florence would also have its opportunities to grab the centre of the debate, but it seems that each occasion was squandered by internecine quarrels among bitterly competing interests. There are three kcy aspects that when collapsed together help explain the peculiar condition of Florence's conflictual artistic and architec-

tural culture in the post-war period. The first was the failed re- construction of Florence's city centre, heavily darnaged during the German wartime withdrawal on 4 August 1944; the second con- cerned the equally disappointing manner in which the city ex- panded to ~iieetthe growing populatio~iand manufacturing needs in rhe same period; the third was the significance of the student activist lnovements in directly and indirectly contributing to re- constituting the School of Architecture into one of the most open-

36 ly receptive - if also least recognized - grounds for architectural

Casabella-Corrtinuit in

commercial districts abandoned to more ad hoc rebuilding meth-

Benedetto Croce, while Leonardo Savioli's more timid Micheluc-

Ricci, did not gain much public support." In Manfredo Tafuri's


to feeble and greatly colnpromised reconstruction of the histori-

opinion the ensuing proposals for the heavily damaged areas "









au!luaJslsal!qsJepunojsayasruaqlpaqsndap!sepuepadd!~lsjo amosueX[Bu!sea~su!le!y!mej'u~alledaqlIsom~uau!uo~d-old pallnslojqsnmjoaqls'i(l!slale[.]uarudola~apIUleqmp[nom-aq luel~odm![elnlsal!qsJeAe[na;,aqJsIsal!qxeam,%\b[a~e~-uos
































bly energetic, with extensive meetings, assemblies, all-night sit-

more events and experimental

Radical "

there and one sleeps there

in fact not have been

ever were entirely successful; some reforms were achieved, others

never came close.'" The students and the faculty engaged in a decade-long ideological battle over the substance of a contempo- rary architectural education and this critical discourse undoubt- edly succeeded in recasting the fundamental issues of the Floren- tine school. The prolonged struggle for educational reform is to be credited with furnishing the powerful rhetorical ammunition exploited so proficiently by the Superarcbiterlure generation. And then of course there is the historically rich city of Flo- rence, whose entire economy functioned outside of major in- dustries like Milan or the huge bureaucracies like Rome. Flo- rence was primarily an artisan-manufacturing centre with a very powerful shopkeeper middleclass. Students attending the School of Architecture in Florence in the 1960s had a much harder time finding work, or getting swept into working class struggles, or protesting national policies. Without the distractions of the big city setting, students moved in smaller circles: but one event in 1966would act to pull the \\thole architectural community together

whether the reforms to the university system

Over the Ions term, the point may

architecture is born in the occupied university. One lives

projects." Piero Frassinelli opined:


in a state of existence that was neither reliably authentic nor con-

If in fact Florence was hopelessly blocked by traditional con-

ventions, the city's artistic community had been taking important steps towards building a receptive place for an alternative con- temporary art culture. Florentines were gradually becoming ac- quainted with the most important players on the European art circuit. Maria Gloria Bicocchi's gallery Centrodiffusionegrafica on Piazza Saltarelli (later to become adtapes 22, the pre-eminent

Bill Viola) was one of the first

video centre featuring the likes of

galleries to bring internationally acclaimed artists like Robert

42 Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, performance artists like Allan

Kaprow, the sound artists from l3uxus." But in less than a flash,

the past, now buried deep under metres of mud and debris. Scenes

ments of artifacts from the river? sediment and painstakingly han- dling them like birds caught in an oil slick were emotionally stir- ring, but ultimately a setback to the cause. The planning for the first Superarcl~irecrr~reexhibition in Pis-

the Arno valley as an enormous lake.

dle class were incapable of seeing beyond the city's customary tra- ditions. With all the talented artisans and small manufacturing

furniture and leather luxury goods for the upper classes. Alessan- dro Mendini's land of "Good design" could be almost anywhere

tions threw the two events out of sequence. There would be little time for Archizoom and sUPER5'TUD10 to evolve between the two

sentative medium itself, as it does from their subversive message. SUPERSTUD~Ofrom beginning to end stripped architecture down to in most essential meaning. SUI'ERSTUDIO requires additional levels of reading, precisely be- cause there are degrees of deception constantly present in their elab- orately assembled images and projects. Their highly seductive and visually pleasing visions tend to veil a biting critique collaged just below the surface. Each stage of their work is meant to eel back another layer of social paralysis, of futile dreams and debilitating social infrastructures. SUPERSTUDIOworked from positions of deep familiarity, destabilizing from within each and every aspect of the architectural discourse. Florence, as one of the most significant artis- tic destinations on the 19th-century Grand Tour, finds itself trans- ported in the work of SUPERSTUDIOinto a dimension of science fic-

tion, history's other." Twelve Carrtionary Talesfor Christmas: Pre- n~o,ti!io~tsof the M)~sticalRebirth of Urbanism, apart from its an-

inquisitiveness, refuses

urban design in the con-

city lile.'" The exquisitely drafted sections, axono-

metrics and illustrations depicting the twelve cities reassure the

ti-utopian visions and very personal form of

to celebrate the role of architecture and

struction of

trolled and modified. This is what Adolfo Natalini referred to as

"theory + practice + theory check", that ran into all sorts of

This may well have been an inevitable outcome for a research

project that began with

monuments, images and ambient technology;and gradually spread farenough out to bring into its orbit a world of objects and build- ings, of monuments and landscapes, until nothing remained un- touched by its reductive powers. SUPERSTUDIOdutifully maintained

the typological ordering of architectural

Piero Frassinelli, seem in the end to be much closer to a critique on the present than evocations for the future: the twelve scenes unfold like exaggerated projections on some of our most common obsessions, where consumer culture goes blind, bureaucracies go mindless, high-technology pacifies. This may also be interpreted

as a critique of Americanization, a rising temporary Italian scene. The suggestive

us want to change but also allow us to retreat back to the con,. fort of our real homes, our heavy objects, our annoying lives. But from 1973 on, coinciding with Adolfo Natalinii teaching appointment at the School of Architecture in Florence, the group moved in hvo different directions. It was a moment of deep re- assessment. The individual members began working more inde-

with no need to do anything except to find the button. The

pendently on different types of projects, but also moved into the academic research and teaching. Natalini's class, taught with the assistance of Alessandro Poli, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and Piero Frassinelli, investigated the everyday use of objects in contempo- rary culture. Under the title of Ex~ra-UrbanMa~erralCukure,stu- dents were asked to return to their local family origins, and help anthropologically document the material culture slowly disap- pearing in the countryside. Natalini's famed lectures on the walk-

streamline the waste, to eliminate all clutter. The process devel- ing stick -he boasts a large collection of handmade and manu-

rience of Roberto Magris),and on the other by progressively dis- secting those very same projects to reduce the variations, to

buildings (the group could count

cesslul furniture designs, train cars, residential and

phrenically advanced by pursuing on one hand pragmatic and suc-

hen omen on in the con-

subtitle, "SUPERSTUDIO

evoke nvelve visions of ideal cities, the

supreme achirvement of twen-

ty thousand years of civilization, blood sweat and tears. The Final Heaven of Man in possession of Truth, free from contradiction,

equivocation and indecision; totally and forever replete with his




implies just such a world specially made for you,


ject was not really about anti-utopias, but was SUPERSTUDIO'Sstark

premonition on where contemporary

trends were leading.


1966 to 1973 the SUPERSTUD~Ooffice had schizo-


on the industrial design expe-

4s oped into a series of checks and balances, whereby the theory en-

The course in effect initiated a second phase

oeuvre; whereby there is a concerted

construct the bare elements of a The anthropological research

ruse, its tools and shelters, was one of the

going on during these years. Considcring

fami exodus into the 1960s, the real risk, that has since proved founded, was the permanent loss of a highly sustainable low-

grade human ecology. Est~<r-Urbo,~1'4oter;ol C~~ltrirebears little re- semblance to the fanfare and hoopla created around the 1973 Global Tools symposium, which remaincd transfixed by consumer culture. SUPERSTUDIOinitiated Histog~a171s,back in 1969, with the intention of reducing design and architecture to a single three- dimensional manipulation of surfaces. When SUPERSTUDIO began its study on the design of silnple multi-functional utensils in 1973, it w:~snot to design a better and more marketable product bur to find proven l~w-~radetechnologies that were uniquely versatile. The peasant farmer Zeno, in his native home in Tuscany, re- built a bent-wood chair from the turn of the century, piecc by piece, over the course of about fifty years. Every reiteration pre- senled the chair's proportions and function, though each time thc

artifact was slightly modified. The goal of the

research was to doc-

umenr and le:~rnfrom these extraordinary human experiences; but this phase of SUIJEI(STUDI~'S research lacked the checks, balances and earlier ironies that might have successfully lifted this project back on to a more international platform. A broad overvie\\, of the project including many examples drawn from tlie student research was later mounted at the 1978 Venice Biennale to exhibit the cat-

egory of Architecture, under the title of l'roject Ze11o. This strange- ly Heideggerian vision of the new world, a familiar revisiting of van

a pro-

ject that nonetheless reconnects with

SUI'ERSTUDIO also presented The WiJe oJLot, consisting of a welded iron table and moving tower designed to hold a fluid pouch filled with water. A tube dripped water over five salt nloulds rep- resenting the historical stages of architecture: the pyrsmid, the coliseum, the basilica, Versailles and the Villa Savoye. With time,

as in fact was the case, each of the salt moulds disappeared, a

on archirecture's inevitable dissolution. This pro-

ject more than anything else physically embodied the dilemma of ;~rchitecture'sephemeral existence, \vith the additional tension (hat such a delicately framed iron and s;llt structure produces by sitting at the edge of Venice's Grand Canal. The artifact has since been lost, but its idea lives on as the anti-monument dedicatcd to the mother of all monuments. The strange combination of professional practice and theoret-

48 ical insurrectionism; of profitable industry contracts and sarcastic


attempt ro find a way to re-


new on primitive Italian peosanr cul-

few projects of its kind the massive scale of the

Gogh's contemplation on a pair of peasant shoes, suggests

the recl~rt~of architecture.



assaults on consumerism; of global fame and peasant culture, are the conflictual relationships in a body of research committed to engaging mainstream society. Thc members of SUI~ERSTUD~~have sought t~ discover the way towards making a better society, made up of individu:~lsresponsible to their communities, critically cog. nizant of their natural resources and shared cultures. The fundamental issues from the group's early beginnings Xrcere all directed towards a cr~tiqi~eof a hegemonic modernization: N~.

If the architect cannot become architecture, is there anything left but to take one's leave of the stage?

' P Ginsbow, ,I Hirtnn $ Corilc~,~pomnlia(i8 (Lon.

rlon:l'cn~tlinhoks, 1990.

' D. Gi;~che~ri,,l,ini SCI.





and minorron~lccrionrbc. ' Ilornc war bombitrdcd I"

~\r,eenthcm, bo, rhcr were onlike Archiroom. who

(corn he beginnin): e~lr~cddrnluging thea.orhp d;~u

ns s right and Iamncliar

group of fricndr or cohonr. L~~~~,~~.

md ;trotand #hc


11on ;~nd y;trds. mainly

rc~idc~~~iilldistTiCI Of San

(Pis%BTS. 2002. 191 " According ro

' S Krlr.tocr. "Thc Horel

Lobby". In 'The ~Llo~rOr- IY1c.inirr &*!)a, rciously ;~s

~rtlnsl.Thonl:>s Y Lcrin (Ca~nbridpc,Mnsr.: tlnr-


Grirpigni, sutdcnr> rcvolr.


bec;>oscthes were con-


\vould nor be sblc ro pro- ridcthcm\\,i~hworkur rhc

. L




wry md I'rojecc

in L~li;~~

ArchlrccrurJCUI,,,~~in ,Ilc


15. B;~CI~~J,2000.7).




1970 imld 19721, hu~ILI~I



in l he school. l'e-

Lang. inlcrrir\v xith

rrsctlich oor get porri-


Agarti. L. P;>,serln~,md N.

hlc5smdro Poli Iflorcncc, Tr~tnfi~glin,edh. lri 'ir1r;~m 3idered hir~ori~~ll~

uc, bur for chc ~cnmillion

Deccmher 20021.


M. (;rispigni.

~rione,poliric;~c violenrn.


(venice. ~I.,C~,I,~.


,', so lirrle







e i bragbr Jd '68 (Milan:

ccnrre. in Lcr,can bc con.

this ii.a trivis~lobrema~ion denrr from a v;tri region from RcFSioCmilie. Genoa


'' IM. T;lfuri, H,rtnn,o/l/nl. largcnumbcrof fore~jinrnl-

the porriblc iuc-

tors thsc lily behind Fla-


btlr Press. 1990. 71. \ orld admission by "hlin~orcFanfmi \\,as~he rhe school's prcridenr. national-levcl policicisn Con.tha~the city hsd les who sough[ f:~t,o~rs\vi~b reridcnrisl Iproblcmr than




dcncn Of



ns to upen tire thesis pro- jcrts io a \r,ider rnnjie of

Fontan2 (cit. 1951, and thc South. ar well as r topics. Pirzoilo and Di

Crirtina. in Gmhrllir-Co,i-

Ino. 287. Milan.


lvlily 196-1.391

~nce'rgrowing ppulnriry. '' Tornldo di Frzlncin mw

rhc fight to do arvay with lhc expensive nmdclr us a sign rhnr much tnorc had to ch;nnae: their demands

rhc \lorking cli~rrcs,thcrc- rhe olhcr grca,er merropo- were to opco the univeoi-

by focu,ing his or~cntionr lirer and bccnure rhc !pro. cy ryrrcm co~?.er)~one.from


\\,orking cl;er districts

fessorr wcrc n,ore iaccori-

nII social clurrer.\vi~hrnsrr

to begin wi~hBut accord blc having Inr profession-

;ecnrible toercr)nne.such


;,I ,vork lo rlirrrncr rhcn?. ,\r in fsc~rhc cost of [he


Franci;,, the destiny ofFlo. rcncr war and remains

And here \\.as ,~l\vaysof counerhecirs'r;inirric hcr

proferrionally m~detmod- elr for thc (hesir proiecl.

locked in the hitndr of rhe

itngr IL?Nt~:tone.Rom~cc, Thne \>.ere [he issuer [hat


rhopkeepcrr. n,ho nrc on. \villing lo alloiv erperi-

7 Dcccmbcr 19661. " "In his iwopural lerrurc

pro\,oked them to occupy the rec~or'roffice on Plap

for the new year, rc\,enlml:

mentarion inro the cir?. 1%. rei L%!ng,interview with


rhere wr n lack of

ZI San Marco in 1964. ami~h srbour lifly othcr students

phr. Dcripns by Arch!.

our dirporitlon reparore

inridenccthen, ~l>elirrrSt,-

zoom and Supciscudio".

and i~~~de~u~~cerpacls



in Romc. During the nr-

" Umnir. 0 yello\v bound

and more could bc devel-


Filer (no. 47. London,

iiir nsr nor a prccire oblip-




~cmblies[hey refused ro

meekly news-stand publi-

oped on each oirhe indi.


Aho see M. Capo.

ittian roproviderhcmu;~nr and


with Cr~thnoTor~ldodi


biunco. "Gli Anni Qui~r-

in M. Cnpobianco

and C. Cilrreri. cdr. Ar.


arhich (he univcrriiy and thcrchool ingcnectl nccd, ilndrhitr iiirno~theprecire

veuk bur chirped inrrei~d

perrhcd on [he bcnchcr

likes raosring birds. See


war quite


from Mondndari,





group. h4.znyof rhere godr were rhated. and it \\,auld



chirct~ami~rliilrrn: 1910- responribiliry ofthe domi.

Francid (Filortmno. 7 De- cember 20021.

Grispigni kit.





be imporrant ro go deeper

19.79 IN;~pler: Elecra nant politicxl class to have

'Capone~roinnd Fmcnrri-

'" "In


rhe Iralii~n

works ar o son of alterna-

into su~cns-ruoro'sgroup

Napoli. 1998. 1221,

lcfr the Iralian rchwl ryr-

ni, inG~nhcliu.Co,~~i,>~,i~~i

Schoolsof Archilecturc be-

tn.c or escapist li~eri~rure dynamic.


'I. E. Cnrre".

'lnccrvirra ia

~rmin such abandon and



BrunoZNi". 1991. inS0pee misery". "Diwomo agli 5,". 401.


versity in 1963 ond 1901. Bur they were prerenr

of chc Florcnce School of "V.Grc~otti."Rcolti dcl

hrchi~ecrurcwnspublished corrruire". Crahell<r-Cot,- licr ;m reaching arrir~antr.

in the Florentine daily in

Decembcroil966. Thesr- M;>y 19M. 191. liclc ourlined rhe tcnuour "In inrcn,iewrwith rcvcr-

condicionr t?dngthe rchod nl members of Archimam ftlll-rcnlc models, a conrm- after che flwd, becoming a and SUPERYTUDIO,hlaric verriril .tppro;tcb jii\,cn thc

sonofwish lirr for the then Therer Stauffcr laced rchool'r pcnchsln~for pre- Preside Gi~irc~~eGori Dranzi, Corrctti. Dcg;ulello, cise ink drmingr. Perer



school inro (he pcriphcry

running along the fwrhills See Slauffcr (cil. 35, foor- 20021. '' Leonardo Ricci, "Prab.

on the RorcnccPni+l'ir. toia ilxir, LO deal with thc

wpid 1r,p6n~oftheschwl'r dcnrs' demilndr to reeon.

populationduringthep~c. r,irucc thc existing power

war pcriod (500rrudcnrs ln 1958 to 1500 in 19661. Ac- cording lo ~hcaddress by Gori, Florence drew xu-

ar~demlcdecirionr.;~r $vcll


(no. 287. Milan.

:' Toraldo di France re- called that Ricri'r course had rhc r~udcntrwork on

Lang, inrcrvicw wirh Crir- rhno Toraldo di Franch (Filottrnno, 7 Decembcr

lemi per una nuovn mag- gior~nza",lecturc held nr thc FncoltB di Firenzc in

orrarian ofthe faculry con-

lpropored n new a,ould relocatc rhe

and Tonddo di Frenci;~as part of the group 111;tr oc- cupicd the rector's office.

nore 37). " On the agenda were rlo-

structures within (he oni.

verri~y,to include rhe par- fcrence held in Romc hc.

ticipstion ofrhcrmdentrin t\\,een I4 and

19M. Rq,nn,cd

15 M~rch

in C~rcrbel-

visionary drawings coming from the studios of young Florentines

from 1966 on were an altogether different level of creation, image making and thought than mere product design. The drawings of SUPESTUDIO,Archizoom, UFO, Gruppo Strum, Gianni Pettena, Ugo La Pietra and others were, as Doug Michaels puts it, "kick ass design" but more importantly they were "creative initiatives", unlike anything being ~roducedin America at the time.' They suggested a fantastic architectural scene in Florence that made California seem very provincial and unimaginative. In today's \\.orld where architectural shifts and drifts are interna-

to imagine a small

tionalized cquickly across cyberspace, it is hard

museum city like Florence as a centre of international thought on architecture, urbanism and design. This small Tuscan city, as Pe-

ter Cook reminds us, is "a safe distance from Cape Canaverd, the

galleries of New York and Dusseldorf, and even the snlelly facto- ries of the Po valleyMand "there [is] hardly an insistent or threat- ening local milieu of mainstream architects worth bothering about".' The arch scenes of Rome, Venice and Milan were vibrant in their own ways, but this small museum and university city was very much a hot spot in the late 1960s. It had an architecture culture that revolved around one of Italy's most lively and politically en- gaged architecture schools, the best art and architecture book

and Maria Gloria Bicocchi's out front

(later to become the important

store in Italy Centro Di

gallery Centrodiffusionegrafica video tape gnllery art/tapes 22):

seductively ironic and charged

polemics of these Florentine architects were known in North hler- ica through Italian magazines but SUPERSTUDIOdid touch down in the United States at the Rhode Island School of Design for a moment in 1970. Its "strategist" Adolfo Natalini taught there for a semester with Archigrammer Mike Webb, and Austrians Raimund Abraham and Friedrich St Florian.' This connection with the world outside Italy changed dramatically in 1972 when

the Museum of Modern Art in New York under the direction of design curator Emilio Ambasz created an amazing exhibition and spectacularly beautiful catalogue titled Italy: The New Dornertic

Landscape, Achievetnet~tsand I'roblems ofltalia~rDe.sig~z.~

Throughout the 1960s the

The largest and most expensive exhibition in the history


MOMA,it featured alongside a survey of contemporary Italian



mocvent/Microcrrvirontnetrt as well as projects by Archizoom, Ugo

La Pietra. Gruppo Strum, group

noted that during this period MOMA'S architecture department tru-

ly had its finger on the ~ulseof the moment. The Architecture and Design Department under Arthur Drexler created other impor-

It should be

dustrial and doniestic product design

9999 and others.'

tant exhibits: Visiotra~~'Arch~tectrrre(1960). Architecture IVitbout

Dotne.rtic Landscape, Edu-

54 architect^ (1965) and just before Neru

ÿÿ be Webb Ratmund Abraham

~dolloNarallniand Frledr ch

St Florran 1970

stage for its penultimate moment on the international scene." It was the first to feature the young Florentines and none of the oth- er visionary architectural draftsmen of the period: Cedric Price, Archigram or the Austrians: Coop Himmelblau, Haus.Rucker-Co,

The exhibition and catalogue attempt to rectify this understand-

sign culture. Thc Ncw Domestic Lndscape catalogue begins with a short discussion on domestication from Antoine de Saint-Exupbry's Thl,r

Little Pri~~ce:

"You become responsible, forever, for what you have domes- ticated."

"What does that mean -

"It is an act too often neglected. It means to establish bonds."


"Please domesticate me", said the fox.


"I want to, very much", the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and ;I great many things to understand." "One only understands tlie things that one domesticates", said tlie fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things already made ar shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so \ve have no friends any more. If you want a friend, domesticate me "What must 1do, to domesticate you?" asked rhe little prince.




must observe the proper rites


"What is a rite?" asked the little prince. "Those are ;icrions too often neglectedn, said the fox. "They re what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours."" This call for design is quickly followed in the introduction with

the disclaimer thar "design cannot solve all problems that precede

its crearion and rhose that may cnough of a qualifier, Ambasz

objects: "for many designers, the aesthetic quality of individual ob-

jects intended for private consumption

the face of such pressing problems

the pollution of tlie environmenr now cncounrered in all indus- trialized countries"." Furthermore, soriie of these designers "de- spairing of effecring social change through design, regard their task as essentially a political one and therefore absrain from physical design of either objects or environments and channel their ener- gies into the sraging of evcnrs and the issuing of polemical state- ments".'" These absraining designers, in rhe spirit of polemical discourse, are given a chapter in the caralogue ro stare their posi- tion and critique those with whom they disagree about the pro- duction of objects. The catalogue essay by Manfredo Tafuri, for


ing "liberation through irony [that] goes over the same ground covered by rlie utopias of the avant-garde of earlier years"." When

arise fro~nir"." If this were not

then proclaims the irrelevance of


[has] become irrelevant in poverty, urban decay, and

example, attacks the work of sLJ~olU'l'L!~10and Archizoom for

of work as an autonomous acrivity responsibleon-

ly to itself and does not question irs sociocultural context", sim-

ply refining "already established forms and f~nctions".:~The sec-

ond group or rhe

cern for the designer's role in a society that fosters consumption

56 as one mciins of inducing individual happiness, thereby insuring

reformists. itre "morivated by a ~rofoundcon-

er "conceive[sl

They do not "invent substantially new forms, instead

they engage in a rhetorical operation of redesigning conventional

objects with new ironic, ;~ndsometimes self-deprecatory socio-

in society"."

tradictions and paradoxes of the firsr two groups. In thc first ten-

litical and philosophical action or complere \virhdrawal from the

mean here designed environments like To~olFI~UIIS/J~,I~U~IIIby

modular housing industry. The history of modular housing is

most co~ilpellingapproach since it "corresponds to the preoc- cupations of a changing society", and is what "rhe exhibition is

DIO created a nine-panel project that arguably stands out as the iconic project from the exhibit. The division of Italian design into three prevalent attitudes is

by the two sections "Objects" and "En-

vironments" that parallel and document the exhibition. The cat-

followed in the catalogue

to completely different categories. In "Objects" designs are se-

and finally "implications of more flexible patterns of use and arrangement"."These definitions seem flexible and loose because

concerns and their professional practices" can be placed togeth-

which they work"." In the first "Objects" grouping selected for their formal and technical means are domestic designs by Joe Colombo, Vico Mag- istretti, Gaetano Pesce, Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper's ear- ly television boxes, Ettore Sottsass' classic Valentine portable Olivetti typewriter, the Castiglioni brothers' lamps. Massimo Vi-

for their implications of more flexible patterns of use and arrange-

urn. It is a domestic product that appears in many Italian design

see much difference in concept beyond their marketing.

Italian conundrum and needs an explanation. Adolfo Natalini commenting on Italian architects involved in this sector has said, "its super production of ideas is due to the condition of complete unemployment among architects. In the Florence School OF Ar- chitecture, there are 6,000 students, and architects in Italy are in charge OF only 25% of the total built volume of building. The so- called 'Furniture industryyhas only t\\,~Firms with more than 500 employees in more than 28,000 Firms (average number of em- ployccs 4.8) and can thercfore, thanks to its 'craftsmen' size. al- lo\\' itself an ample margin of little experiments"." While SUI'ER- SI.UD~Odid believe For a titile that the luxury goods market, cre- ated by an extant artisanal Italian economy, offered them the op- portunity to express design ideas that were closed off to them in the building sector, they evcntually canie to believe it was a dead- end street. It \\,as, thcy decided, little more than an "inducement to COLISUII~C".I" In thc second section of the exhibition "Environments" Arn- basz presents a detailed, maniFesto-like seven-page Design Pro- gram of "environmental concepts" that he hoped would become physical designs." The Design Progra~~rincludes minutely detailed programmatic considerations and options that include cost goals (economically available to "low to middle income Italian Fami-

lies"), exhibition light sources,

and a final separate essay, "Manhattan: Capital of the Twentieth

a list OF "general considerations"

Century" that all

mcstic landscape in context for the designers." It is liberally sprin-

kled with quotes From Siegfried Giedion's T11e Arcl~ifectf~reof

Transition, Henri LeFebvre's The Explosio12,Marxism and the Fre11c11

Upheaval, Ambasz's Princeton professor Abraham A. Moles and Howard Searles' NOII.HZIIII~IIEnvironnrer~!." The Manhattan text, informed by W:ilter Benjamin insights, presents the island as an infrastructure that provides the Framework in which "all crystal- lized fragments rescued from the city ofmemory, and all the Frag- ments envisioned For the city OF tlie imagination may dwell to- gether in an ensemble, if not by reason of thcir casual or histori-

cal relationships (since no reconstruction is hereby intended), then

published in

by grace OF their aBinities"." This essay originally

Casabrlla seems gratuitous and his call that it inspire designers to

"make incursions into i~iiaginaryrealms" is hardly necessary For groups like suPmsruuro."Based on chis detailed Design Progra~n each invited designer or group is asked to design "a domestic en-

vironment adaptable enough to permit the enactment OF different

private and communally imagined new events

attempt to put contemporary problems OF the do-

. sufficiently fixed

to permit the re-enactment OF constant aspects OF our individ- ual and social memory"." In tlie Desig~rProgram Ambasz presents his view that the prob- so lems of urban society are so severe that designers must be chal-

anti-utopias are scvcrely criticized in the most po\verful text in The

ri's preferred standards OF earlier avant-gardes, sincc they risk


His text in the "Critical Articles" section of the catalogue is dense

and insightful on 20th-century Italian design, but his belief was that SUI~BIISTUDIO'S"anti-utopian regression \\,as therefore fated to give birth to new utopias" and that a "private leap into the sub- limated universe of 'artificial ~aradises'has not proven prescient"." They did call for a \vorld "without cities, castles or roads" but this

bilities of the design strategy. In the spirit of 1960s' polemical and protest culture SUPERSTUDIO, placed on ~IOMA'SNew Dornrrfic

to us at the start of the 21st century.

' M. Tsfuri,Hirrog o/IrnI- ianArcl,itcdurr: 11.1iL1181

(C~~mbridgc,Milas.: The hlll Prerr, 1990. 3831. ' Doug Michselr. in nn c- mstl conversation wirh the nurhor. 2 January 2003. Perer Lnng. "Suicidal De. sires". in thl, c~tralo~oe. ' Doug Michaels, in an e.

mail conl8enstton*irh the

author. 2 J;tnuary 2003. nounce

" See G. Celant'r 'Rndicill

Archircaure". ln Arnbarr. " Anlbarr. ed. (cil. 139-

*' Ibid.


4. Icir. 380)."All rhcnew




Its rims Anre conmpruil ;an



Archizoom and Supcntu-

d6a.ecc.-I rh;>r " Ibrd 147.


" Ibld 148.

behnuiot~nl.Proclaiming it. lhid. lelf ar mdicitl. ir no lon~er "lbid svirher ro be commercial- "/bid,


ized or rlienated, or to re-

irr o\vn idei~r~nnd

" Ihid. 242: oriGinsllyin

"sul)Khnu~,~o". CnmbellN


bu~their aim ofdireng.tFing


' Cwk kit. 49). bmlkinl: ~vlth,thc prcrenl rhitcrturc in Relatton to

ian Dcrign (1972).

" D. Grnhrm. 'Art

I;lrion to Architecu~re/ Ar-

in Re-



lion a,

MohlA in 1972.


" Arnb~~rr,erl. (cir. 242).

Hawmer, not only arc the

" Ibtd

'-'lhiil 420.

designerr fc.ttured

in this


"'lhrd 421.

exhibit edunted 2%archi. '' lb~d20. '

[ecw but or informs all of

their ~hauph~rand motiva- " Ilnd

' IbiJ

rianr. Rcnzo Pmo devlrcd

:' lbid 2 I.

.I lighlwei~htstructure to

Ribrd 139-210.

*'lhld 21.

cowr the uppcr and lower terraces of rhe museum'r

" lhd.



bur remained un-

" lh~d.

~IOMA li-

" lhirl 94.

tionr from the bmry. The next

rnaior ;nr-



11 I.

chirecrure exhibition after " lhid


The Neru Do,,,mic


'^ A. Nnlnlini. 'l~sly: The

~~o~c~~~~rThl,eArchitec~~~reNe\v Domestic Lnnd-

olthe fleorfx Arts in 1976, how thnt heralded I'orr. rnadernlrrn ur Moh1,I.


(no.8/72, London. 1972.

scape". Ar</~dedsreDe~i~,,


that of finding a house above a house for all seasons. We al-

imposed and suffered

egy for living", i.e. a series of

tried methods for smoothing over discord and bringing back able, changing its relationships with the passing of time, with the

peace and calm. Living strategy is substantially a method for reaching the self-consciousnessof horno bobitons through a series of spiritual exercises. And certainly every "manual of spiritual

a great race (from one exhibition to

Thus a series of guerrilla

warfare actions are born, violence is

sumes, dies; the great problem is passion, a house of calm serenity,

this is which creates the need for a "strat-

practical rules, first-aid manuals, well-

ready move about enough ourselves to rendcr the architecture vari-

changing of the seasons and life.

Modern furnishing is like

another, from shop to magazine) towards the most beautiful, the newest, the most functional. But to come in first or last has no importance if the whole race is wrong, and the race of consumerism is definitely wrong. Thus, the thing to do is not to take part in the race, but to get out of it as soon as possible, and to isolate oneself apart to col- g

exercises for serene living" must

desire to be always "in fashion" or the desire to be always styl- ish, or amusing, or to be liked at once: that is, it advises an im- mediate abandon of false problems, manias, hysteria.

suggest the abandonment of all


jects in their tombs: today

also most houses are the tombs of ob-

jects. Objects become museum-ified very quickly, and are kept,

it doesn't matter whether for a long or short

eternity of useless ornaments. If the purpose of furnishing is to


always and only be a witness to our mental or emotional rela-

tionships: a series of

about our public and

But the important thing is to keep ourselves free from fear re- prding memories: the important thing is to keep control of the situation, with all its possibilities for change, for abolishing or con- serving. Each operation, each variation, must however take place


just changed. In the field of variability, much is talked (too much


time, with all the dusty

The Egyptians and the Etruscans used to put household

human relationships, e\,erything we have about us must

objects to keep like messages in bottles, private histories.

drama, because usually nothing is bettered or worsened,

of mobile space, consumable space, transformable space.

There is the search for metabolisms and cinetization, an archi- tecture of "mobility, functionality, usability" is substituted for an

architecture of "firmitas, utilitas, venustas".

At any rate, there is an effort to move what is still, without try-

ing to stop that \vhich is moving too much.

is not that of searching for a house which imi-

74 tates movement, which follows the man who mo\,es, lives, con-


The problem is not to furnish roorns. and not even to propose objects both amusing and perishable The problem is to furnish deserts, to awake consciousness from long, dogmatic sleep, and force backward the monster created by the sleep of reason. Once, silver was used for protection against vampires and werewolves; now we use marble, chro