GRAHAM FOUNDATION/ the final exhibition Environments and Counter Environments

_MG_4684-96Environments and Counter Environments. “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape,” MoMA, 1972

SEP 18, 2013 – DEC 14, 2013

This exhibition highlights the lasting significance of MoMA’s groundbreaking 1972 exhibition, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape and emphasizes both the dynamic context of radical Italian design and architecture in the 1970s, as well as the innovative exhibition that first presented this work in America.
Curated by Emilio Ambasz in 1972, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape showcased the forefront of Italian design and commissioned a series of experimental domestic “environments” and attendant films by the most vibrant Italian architects and designers of the period: 9999, Archizoom, Gae Aulenti, Mario Bellini, Joe Colombo, Gruppo Strum, Ugo La Pietra, Gaetano Pesce, Alberto Rosselli, Ettore Sottsass Jr., Superstudio, and Zanuso/Sapper. Utilizing a unique organizational method, works in the exhibition were separated into two distinct categories: Objects, which were subdivided into three groups—reformist; conformist; and contestatory—and Environments, which were divided into design as postulation; design as commentary; and counterdesign and postulation.

Contrary to convention, the Objects were displayed in the natural setting of MoMA’s sculpture garden, while the Environments were shown within the institutional spaces of the museum’s galleries. This curatorial decision provoked consideration of the architectural properties of the Environments and that of their museum setting, as well as the contemporary mutability of the term ‘environment’, as it had gained currency across a range of fields, including the environmental design movement, the social and behavioral sciences, biology, cybernetics, the defense industries, and ecology.

To accompany the installations, each designer was asked to produce a film that would demonstrate their environment’s alterability. Together the environments and films refined the potential for domestic spaces to fundamentally influence inhabitants’ thoughts and actions.
Presented for the first time since 1972, Environments and Counter Environments brings together these important, previously lost films and returns to the original exhibition, not as a reconstruction, but as an analytical project that attempts to reassess the visionary possibilities of architecture and design. Also on display will be a selection of materials on the prototype Environments, as well as many of the original documents, working drawings, renderings, and primary source images, photographs, and models that went into the making of the MoMA exhibit.

Peter Lang is currently Professor in Architecture History and Theory at the Royal Institute of Art, Department of Architecture Stockholm. He holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Syracuse University (1980) and a Ph.D. in history and urban studies from New York University (2000). From fall 2001 to spring 2009 he served as Texas A&M faculty at the Santa Chiara Center in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy. In 2009 he was appointed associate professor at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, where he taught graduate courses and directed Ph.D. students. He writes on the history and theory of post-war Italian architecture, with a focus on Italian experimental design from the sixties. Lang also has been actively involved in urban field research principally related to the understanding of informal cities and underprivileged communities.

Luca Molinari is associate professor of the history of contemporary architecture at the Faculty of Architecture, Naples. His awards include the Ernesto N. Rogers Prize (2006) and the UIA Jean Tschumi Prize for architectural criticism (2008). Molinari’s curated and designed exhibitions include Gold Medal for Italian Architecture (Triennale Milano Rome, Naples, Singapore, and Guangzhou), Check-in-architecture (UIA Congress Turin; Architecture Biennale, Venice), and Sustainab.Italy (London, Singapore). His publications include Barcelona: Architetture e Spazi Urbani, 1975-1992 (1993), Massimiliano Fuksas, 1970-2005 (2005), Continuità: A Response to Identity Crises. Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Italian Architectural Culture after 1945 (Delft, 2008).

Mark Wasiuta teaches at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, Columbia University where he is the Director of Exhibitions and Co-Director of the Masters of Science in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP). He studied at the University of British Columbia, Princeton University, and Harvard University. His research focuses on postwar environmental design, an area of shared interest at the base of his collaborative office, the International House of Architecture.  He is the recipient of recent grants from the Graham Foundation, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Banff New Media Institute. Recent curated and designed exhibitions include,Tony Oursler, UFOs and Effigies, No Longer Art: Salvage Art Institute, Collecting Architecture Territories, and Operators’ Exercises: Open Form in Film and Architecture. He is co-editor and co-author of Dan Graham’s New Jersey, and has recent articles published in Domus, Art Lies, Praxis, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and Explorations.


photos by © Tom Van Eynde for The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

Display photos were taken by Mark Wasiuta.