Just out: Materia Arquitectura Magazine edited by Nicolás Stutzin

Friday March 20th 2015 by Peter Thomas Lang

publications Materia 2cp back and front s

Space time and Superstudio: Multi-media and narrative in experimental architecture and design.

Peter Lang

Published in the December 2014 issue: Dossier Representaciones superpuestas



Architects are not necessarily known for tinkering with their craft, at least with the tried and true ways of turning concepts into constructs. Sketches, drawings and renderings serve to establish a set of ‘working’ documents that can clearly convey information in a language common to the many building trades. Yet these very same techniques fall short in their ability to convey architectural ideas to a broader public. One way around this, when observing how things happened in the sixties, was to borrow techniques from commercial media, such as subverting television advertising, comic books or other communication means then in vogue to reach an audience’s impressionable imagination. Commercial media does, more often then not, distort the principle message, employing tactics that are frequently deceptive, disingenuous, or coercive to reach their targets.  These wouldn’t necessarily be the tools of an architect, who, one is led to believe, is not supposed to play tricks with his or her clients, or end users….

Superstudio, the Florence based experimental sixties architecture and design group flirted from the very beginning with these unwholesome media strategies: the “super” in Superstudio represents their hyperbolic claim to an exalted status, though in their case applied tongue and cheek to the very normative practice based around the architect’s office, or “studio.” From the outset, beginning in 1966, they used unconventional tactics to disseminate their work. Their first show at the Jolly 2 gallery in Pistoia recalled the loud interiors of supermarket displays and the neon-lit signs above gas stations. The gallery’s carefully assembled interior exhibition with its extremely foreshortened and loudly colored backdrop were mis-en-scene product launches, where radios, sofas, lamps and other modern domestic bric-a-brac were meant to appeal not so much to professionals as to a younger audience already familiar with these kind of iconographic Brillo Box statements.

Superstudio and Archizoom were driving catalysts behind the Superarchitecture movement, rallying together for super production, super gas, superman, and supermarkets. But something else was also gradually being introduced into the Superstudio canon, the graphic storyboard, or comic strip, that was employed something like a witty users’ manual, to communicate the various objects and their relative contexts.[i] These storyboards would in turn become the basis for scripts to Superstudio’s first cinematic animations: Architettura Interplanetaria (1971) and shortly after Supersuperfice (1972). It was around the same time that the group began developing a series of dystopian urban parables that would lead to the creation of a new hybrid form of architectural radio performance.

Twelve Cautionary Tales for Christmas: Premonitions of the Mystical Rebirth of Urbanism,” Superstudio’s collection of some of the most chilling apocalyptic worlds to have been envisioned by architects in the post-war period, first appeared in publication in the December 1971 issue of the London based AD magazine…

[i] a sample of the captions for Journey into the Realm of Reason, a storyboard published in Domus, 479, 1969: 1. “a map for easy orientation,” 2. “Weather report at departure with several easily forecast miracles,” …14. “an airplane journey with a dangerous landing between the pillars of wisdom.” (translation PTL)