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Super Studio

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2018-04-08 16:01

In the mid-1960s, when the Italian economy had just recovered from the World War II, the young hippies were still not willing to wake up from the dream of "Utopia”. At this point, Adolfo Natalini, studying at the University of Florence's Department of Architecture, came up with some ideas that seemed "non-mainstream" at that time. He did not want to be like any other architect and become the capitalist’s building tool after graduation. At that point in school, he met Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, who was also questioning and thinking about the nature of architecture. They hit it off right away, bursting with creative ideas. Soon, more and more people agreed with their ideas and so Superstudio was born.


In 1966, Superstudio met six designers and architects who saw themselves as "Free Thinkers". In December, these eleven people had a whim that they would hold an exhibition called "Superarchitettura” in Jolly2 Gallery of the Italian town of Pistoia. They denied the Modernism which was popular back then and presented the concept of “the architecture of superproduction, of superconsumption, and super induction to consumption, of supermarkets, superman and super gas". Unexpectedly, it was such an exhibition that led to the "Radical Architecture Movement" that was promoting the Italian design revolution.

From Anti-utopiato Anti-design


Over the years following the exhibition, Superstudio successively created their most representative design scheme and presented the diversity theory proposal and thinking evolution of the team members at the same time. In 1969, Superstudio created "Histograms of Architecture", an anti-utopia story "The Continuous Monument" and the summative works A Journey into the Realm of Reason. Through painting, collage, printing and photography, the "catalogue of non-continuous three-dimensional diagrams” that consists of lines and white grid, pieces together a brand-new conceptual world with a vast net structure across the globe and the outer space. Meanwhile, the attention is directed to the topic of architectural scale, and the architectural design is assumed to be “abstract designs of substantial forms”. The most famous work is one of The Continuous Monument series in which Manhattan, New York, is covered with a rectangular stone.


During this period, most works produced by Superstudio were focused on the utopian concept of negating modernity. While promoting the concept of dystopia, they used the reduction to absurdity with irony to prove the limitations and absurdity of the assumption “architecture can change the world”. In the process of unknowing proof and disproof, the research scope of Superstudio had completely gone beyond the scope of architecture, and it had created a complex and vague field of creation. This field didn’t only challenge the concept of architecture but also touched the definition of art works. The Superstudio turned “architectures” into the philosophical argument about the ability of man to act rationally.


“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.” In 1972, Adolfo Natalini put forward that 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.” 


To prove their point, the team began to devote themselves to film production. Among them, the film Fundamental Acts again raised an objection about the existence of the architectures and also put forward that “Architecture never touches the great themes and the fundamental themes of our lives; architecture remains at the limit.” Since then, the team began to question the link between the life and design. However, while this work demonstrated their ambition to reshape architectural exploration from the anthropological and architectural perspective, it also made the team members produce their own creative ideas. Therefore, to some extent, Fundamental Acts can be regarded as the inducement of Superstudio to be officially disbanded in the early 1980s. In the three years after 1973, five team members went their separate ways. 

Superstudio 50 

As the most famous radical architecture group on the international stage in the 1970s and 1980s, Superstudio explored the relationship between architecture and human behavior in terms of life, education, ritual, love and death and other themes, trying to reshape architecture through anthropology and philosophy. Their influence covers many fields such as architecture, design, art and philosophy, which can be considered a myth in design history after World War II. 


At the end of last year, the large retrospective exhibition "Superstudio 50” which was planned by Superstudio and curated by Gabriele Mastrigli, presented an autobiography-style review of the group for the public in the Power Station of Art. "For 'Superstudio', architecture is a way of thinking, not just a skill. It’s more like philosophy. Therefore, this exhibition is a critical reflection on their contribution to the field of architecture and the category of architecture itself.” said the curator. 


This exhibition presents the process from the establishment of the group in 1966 to the formal disbandment in the early 1980s. A total of more than two hundred pieces of device, painting, photomontage, design manuscript, print, publications, and videos are exhibited. The team also produced the works of the same name for this exhibition, based on The Continuous Monument from 1969. In addition, the exhibition hall also displays the Superstudio style furniture, put into production by major companies in succession since the 1970s. This tells us that the influence of Superstudio in the field of design continues to this day. 

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