Superstudio & Archizoom 1968-1972

From XIV Milan Triennale to the new domestic landscape: “If design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design.” A portrait of the architectural groups ARCHIZOOM and SUPERSTUDIO.

When students stormed and occupied the XIV Milan Triennale in 1968 before it opened, the end of architectonic modernism was also postponed. Curator Giancarlo de Carlo had gathered his colleagues, the critics of modernism known as Team 10 (Peter and Alison Smithson, Aldo van Eyck, and Shadrach Woods) – for a last appearance together at this exhibition of architecture. The protesting students demanded – with the support of those exhibiting work – a sense of social responsibility from the designers and a farther reaching critique of existing power relations. This somewhat internal clash of critical attitudes led to a radicalization of radical architects, peaking with striking impact in the work of groups of architects critical of capitalism such as Archizoom and Superstudio. Founded in Florence in 1966, Archizoom and Superstudio were intensively continuing the modernist project of the technologization and collectivization of space.

page_issue6_superstudio_pic_3

“If design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design; if architecture is merely the codifying of the bourgeois models of ownership and society, then we must reject architecture; if architecture and town planning is merely the formalization of present unjust social divisions, then we must reject town planning and its cities – until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then design must disappear. We can live without architecture.” (Adolfo Natalini, Superstudio, AA London 1971) This is an exact restatement of the modernist project of design: a functional design meant to serve lives, a design refusing all socio-cultural concerns. It avoids terms of power and authority, because it’s purely technical, because it does not form and tends to transcend itself in its ramifications.

page_issue6_superstudio_pic_2

This conception of a complete technologization of the environment, as immaterial as possible, is in line with early modern attempts at functionally mechanizing space. Living in the 1920s was to have become instrumental so that it could make room for a collective living. Built spaces were to have become less important the more optimally they were organized and the more they were relieved of functions, making them more effective for social production and use. Modernism, then, ultimately linked the hope for overcoming competitive capitalism with a cooperative economic system. Technology and collective production would reduce individual work time so that a collective, useful and emancipatory leisure time would ensue. The large machines necessary for this, such as the nursery, the collective kitchen and the centralized vacuum cleaner, appear at Superstudio as the only homogeneous proposed space. With their film project “Superexistence” for the legendary exhibition “The New Domestic Landscape” at the MoMA in New York in 1972, Superstudio illustrated a space of possibility that had overcome all other hierarchical or alienated relations. Along with production, consumption also loses its threat as an extended form of exploitation or reproductive activity. This is also inherent in the project “No-Stop City” in which Archizoom refers to the factory and the supermarket as power-free zones, free of any sort of limitations. The paradisiacal functionalism of the grid and the absence of architecture overcomes all separation and alienation towards an absolutely untroubled freedom of will.

page_issue6_superstudio_pic_1“Architecture must be regarded as a neutral system, available for undifferentiated use, and not as an instrumentality for the organization of society; as a free, equipped area in which it may be possible to perform spontaneous actions of experimentation in individual or collective dwelling.” (Archizoom, in: The New Domestic Landscape, New York 1972).

By JESKO FEZER

 

Related Content

  • ACTIVATE VANGUARD ANTHEM FORCE

    "We want our identity and the viewer’s to be forgotten." Art collective ASSUME VIVID ASTRO FOCUS discuss a summer of love in Berlin and their exhibition at PERES PROJECTS. More
  • Topheadz

    To them, work is gliding over the surface of the world – over water on a surfboard; through powder on a snowboard; above concrete on a skateboard. They always make sure to take enough of every drug, to avoid getting trapped between worlds. But skating takes them somewhere you can't go synthetically. They call themselves Topheadz, and they are traceable only by their bespoke hearts. KATE BELLM photographs the skate collective's amphibious protagonists.More
  • Deeper

  • Life Exists: Theaster Gates’ Black Image Corporation

    Theaster Gates' “The Black Image Corporation” presents photographs from the holdings of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company, a sprawling archive that shaped “the aesthetic and cultural languages of contemporary African American identity.” Gates approached the project as a celebration and activation of the black image in Milan through photographs of women photographed by Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton – of black entrepreneurship and legacy-making. “Life exists” in the Johnson archive, he says, just as it exists and should be honored in other places of black creativity.More
  • FRIDA ESCOBEDO: The Era of the Starchitect is Over

    Rising Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is relentlessly inquisitive, eschewing stylistic constants in favour of an overriding preoccupation with shifting dynamics. Personal curiosity is the driving force behind her practice, which makes he an outlier in a profession dominated by extroverted personalities keen on making bold assertions. "I think it really is a generational shift," Escobedo says. "The idea of the starchitect making grand gestures with huge commissions is over."More
  • “I live a hope despite my knowing better”: James Baldwin in Conversation With Fritz J. Raddatz (1978)

    Born in Berlin in 1931, editor and writer Fritz J. Raddatz relied on food delivered by African American GIs after the death of his parents. To Baldwin he was an “anti-Nazi German who has the scars to prove it.” Debating his return to the USA after 25 years, Baldwin explores the political climate in America at the end of the 1970s in a conversation at home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.More
  • House as Archive: James Baldwin’s Provençal Home

    For her new book, Magdalena J. Zaborowska visited the house Baldwin occupied from 1971 to 1987 “to expand his biography and explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity”. Here, she narrates her early journeys to Baldwin’s home and proposes a salve for its recent loss: a virtual presentation of Baldwin’s home and effects.More
  • Where are the real investments? Theaster Gates on James Baldwin

    The Chicago-based artist talks to Victoria Camblin about materializing the past, the house as museum, and preserving black legacies. Social and artistic engagement, Gates suggests, may allow the contents and spirit of Baldwin’s home, and others like it, to settle in lived experience.More