Radical design and radical architecture: history

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Radical design made Italy a symbol of the artistic and cultural avant-garde of the late 1960s: who were the main characters? What are the most important works?

A brief guide to radical design and architecture and their iconic production that is still valued globally today.

Radical design

That radical design it develops in its most recognizable characteristics from a completely native experience, as it is Radical Italian design the one that inspired us the most worldwide. Around Radical design and definition there is no real achievement, but the flow sees in the center the experience of some creative, which was defined as di resistance: in the wake of the student protest in ’68, the designers reject the advance of rationalism as they are against their projects. In it Radical design objects they are ironic and innovative even in their primary functions, eccentric and unconventional.

That Radical design in Italy (also called Anti-Design or Counter-design) was born in Florence with the affiliated groups of architects Archizoom and Superstudio, and then arrives in Milan to then find his way to Europe and the whole world, where it will be known as Italian radical design. The first years of production highlight the stylistic features of pop art and the artistic avant-garde of the 60s – 70s: Towards the middle of the latter, the revolutionary spirit of the movement is normalized, resulting in neo-modern (neo-modern) designs, of which studio Memphis and Alchymia will be the top representatives.

In the present of Radicals design the artists the most influential were undoubtedly Gaetano Pesce, Gianni Pettena, Riccardo Dalisi, Strum Group and Alessandro Medini, who valued the poetics of radical design by publishing the works in his then trade magazine Nice house. A separate chapter should be devoted to Ettore Sottsass and Radical design was the emblem: in 1957 he takes over the role of art director for Poltronova, and the following year he will start collaborating with Olivetti, not forgetting the artistic and conceptual research that founded the magazine Fresh planet with the sacred monsters of the beat generation Fernanda Pivano, his wife and Allen Ginsberg. Later he will also found the Sottsass Associati studio and Memphis Group, with Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Andrea Branzi and Michele De Lucchi. Sottsass was also a part of it too Zanotta was history most importantly: The famous furniture brand contributed to the innovation of Italian and global design, thanks to collaborations with great artists such as Achille Castiglioni, Gae Aulenti, Joe Colombo, Marco Zanuso, Giuseppe Terragni, Enzo Mari, Bruno Munari and many others. Among the most famous creations under Zanotta’s wing was the famous armchair Sackthe hoop Shanghaithe seat Moon landing and the chair Delboer.

Radical design foundation

There Radical design fund was born with the purpose of keeping alive the spirit that was typical of the design and planning experiences of the late sixties and seventies, and still promoting initiatives in the area today.

Among the latest proposals, linked to the memory of this exciting historical period, which represented one of the highest peaks of creativity in our country, is the film directed by Maria Cristina Didero and Francesca Molteni SuperDesign Italian Radical Designof 2017, which went around the world and probably also instilled abroad the desire to create so-called Radical design course, at architecture and design schools. The success of radical philosophy has certainly conquered the United States, where it lands Supergroup, the gallery dedicated to radical design in Brooklyn.

Radical architecture

The definition of radical architecture it is due to the critic and art historian Germano Celant, who used it to identify the beginning in a new way of doing and designing, where the relationship between form and aesthetics is interpreted in a visionary way, bordering on utopia. The boundaries between the art forms are broken, in great unrest in the late 1960s, with the presence of performances, body art, installations and video art that also end up influencing the field of architecture and design.

In Italy, the summary of this innovative trend is the exhibition Super architecture, promoted by the affiliated firms Florence Archizoom and Superstudio, in December 1966 in Pistoia, whose experiments were soon joined by Ufo and Gianni Pettena. What developed in Italy was an even more characteristic and specific language than the radical European currents that saw among their great exponents Rem Koolhass, Archigram and Arata Isozaki.

Radical architecture was primarily linked to conceptual themes, so much so that Archizoom among the ideas of the period suggested Non Stop City, that is, a city without architecture: a continuous and devoid of determination, to which Superstudio and the other great Florentine reality of Gruppo 9999 also joined. projected on its walls, the Space Electronic nightclub near Santa Maria Novella, created because of the experiences that the group came in contact with during a trip to New York, in Greenwich Village, and which they were very impressed with. They also have the idea for House Ortoan ecological home where green is integrated with the living space, presented on the occasion of the exhibition Italy: The new domestic landscape at MoMA in 1972.

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