The enfants terribles of architecture: here is the Superstudio
Superstudio is the name of a group of conceptual architecture established in Florence in 1966 by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, who were joined in 1967 by Roberto Magris, in 1968 by Gian Piero Frassinelli and in 1970 by Alessandro Magris and Alessandro Poli (the latter until1972). All of whom were students or recent graduates from the Faculty of Architecture in Florence. Since the post-war period, Florence has been a cross-roads of artists and scientists and a lively cultural centre, packed with initiatives, exhibitions, debates and literary magazines. The group made its début in Pistoia with the exhibition entitled Superarchitettura together with Archizoom, another Florentine business pursuing the same experimental research with different shapes.
In the space of a few years, Superstudio has acquired a leading role on the domestic and international scene thanks to its visionary, desecrating and radical projects. This group is abnormal starting with its formation: it's members support the study of architecture with a multitude of experiences and multifarious interests: photography, painting, graphics and industrial design, anthropology, film-making… a variety of skill sets which distinguishes their multi-disciplinary approach. A system of democratic and “horizontal” thinking and working which we currently take for granted yet which at the time was in stark contrast with the idea of the genius and unique architect or designer, under the “name” of whom the studio or workshop was set up and developed.“We worked with enthusiasm, like a new Bloomsbury group or like the contemporary Factory, coagulating around us a variety of artistic and scientific skills to generate collective works…which were unexpected and disruptive within the official channels of the regimental cultural conformism.”
Due to the terrible flood in Florence, the first studio was established in the upper part of the city, in Piazza Bellosguardo where the likes of Galileo Galilei, Ugo Foscolo, Eugenio Montale once worked too. The name Superstudio derives from the Latin root super: “above” and its very etymology betrays a higher vision capable of extending above and beyond design, looking further. The first exhibition was followed by a series of theoretical interventions and participation in major events such as the Art Biennale in 1978 or the 1972 exhibition in NewYork: “Italy, The New Domestic Landscape”. In 1973 Alessandro Mendini, the director of Casabella, published a gorilla holding a label with the words “Radical Design” on the cover of the magazine. Definition taken from an article by Germano Celant from 1971 that uses the terms “radical architecture” to define the investigation by Superstudio and other names from those years about architecture as manifesto and new language.
The group’s parable in fact ends in 1978, although there is no official date of dissolution. The individual theorisation and teaching paths taken by the group’s former members continued over the years until the middle of the Eighties.
Archive images: courtesy of Archivio Toraldo di Francia, Filottrano