The National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) is the first museum dedicated to contemporary creativity in Italy. Conceived as a large campus for culture, the building was designed by Zaha Hadid and opened in May 2010. It is run by a private foundation instituted by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. MAXXI produces and hosts art, architecture, design and photography shows, as well as fashion, cinema and music projects, theatre and dance performances, lectures and meetings with artists and architects. The museum views itself as: “a platform open to all the languages of creativity, a place of encounter, exchange and collaboration … open to everyone.”
The conversation shown here is not a romantic revision of technique nor of Superstudio ideas, but a dialogue between generations on the issues that architecture will still be facing in the years to come.
— César Reyes Nájera
In 1963 a group of students occupied the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Florence, protesting about the Vietnam War, students’ rights and changes to the academic curriculum. Their political actions were reflected in their projects: introducing politics and criticism to production models and also to their means of representation by going far beyond conventional architectural drawings. This was the genesis of Superstudio and Archizoom, the Italian radicals that set a milestone in the philosophical and political interpretation of design and architecture in the second half of the last century.
Superstudio was founded by Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and Adolfo Natalini, who were later joined by Piero Frassinelli, Alessandro Magris and Roberto Magris. The photographer Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and painter Adolfo Natalini were in continuous contact with other creatives from the disciplines of film, photography and painting. As a result, they brought revolutionary new forms of representation into the discipline of architecture that are still in use today.
The work of Superstudio has been widely documented and their influence continues to be relevant since their ideas were “not simply a critique of modern architecture but a more general critique of architecture’s political mandate in a capitalist society” 1. It is not surprising then, that the MAXXI held a retrospective exhibition, Superstudio 50 in 2016, half a century after the group’s foundation. The show’s curator Gabriele Mastrigli also invited contemporary artists to respond to their radical discourse begun back in the 1960s, giving a perspective on the validity of those radical architects and the extent of their influence. We can still find echoes in contemporary events and challenges faced by architecture that were already being addressed by some of the ideas and display methods they used back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Over the following pages you will find an unconventional conversation created especially for this book. It is a dialogue, developed in the manner of Superstudio, between one of its co-founders, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia and Guillermo López, the co-founder of a young Spanish practice MAIO who have also been generating interesting proposals that question the nature of architectural discipline and explore other means of expression in their projects such as collages or performative installations.
Collages have an evocative power to build symbols anew. It’s hard to find such power in contemporary digital representations. However, the conversation shown here is not a romantic revision of technique, nor just of Superstudio ideas, but a dialogue between generations on the issues that architecture will still be facing in the years to come. The lines leading from Superstudio’s Continuous Monument from 1969 can be continued today because they are the lines of a narrative reminding us of the latent promise of our discipline to merge with the environment, to subtract, to add, to build or destroy; one propelled by forces we can barely infer, but nevertheless keep feeding by our own fundamental actions.
What comes after the complete absorption of architecture by capital? Maybe it’s a stack of histograms, the emergence of a post-human set of beings and values, a dialogue between algorithms, or perhaps just the fortunate ability architecture has to talk about other fundamental things. ■