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A Conflicted Relationship

Superstudio and the Dissapearing Architect

Ed. Diseño, 2023. ISBN: 978-1-64360-743-6. 550 p.

Superstudio’s perspectives populate the architectural and artistic imagination of the past 50 years.

Beginning in 1966 with the Superachittetura exhibition, the Florentine group’s adventure led its members to speculate, for more than a decade, on the ways in which to inhabit the world as transformed by capitalist forces and technological revolutions.

Described as “radical” by Germano Celant to denote a hyper-conscious practice whose impulses came almost entirely from outside the discipline, their approach pushed architecture to its limits, helping to reintegrate it into a wider societal dialogue around renewal.

Spanning conceptual and built architecture, object design, interior design, anthropological research, literary invention, and didactics, Superstudio’s work remains intriguingly contemporary as well as controversial. At first "super" and fundamentally realistic and adopting consumption and production mechanisms in an ironic and critical manner, the group’s oeuvre evolved to encompass "things, the body, the Earth," before dissolving all materiality, retaining only a symbolic dimension and blending with life itself.

This book explores and documents this poetic while premeditated withdrawal, a staged disappearance that reveals the group’s conflicted relationship with the discipline: a conceptual journey away from building and towards an intellectual approach that delves into the viscera of the everyday, where our very existence becomes “the public image of truly modern architecture," an architecture deprived of buildings.

From the notorious cenotaphs to the professional architect (Histograms of Architecture, 1969) and their resistance to meaning as the ultimate affirmation of an architecture that seeks to transcend authorship and historical reference, to “a life without objects” (Supersurface, 1971) on a planet transformed into a single device that organizes human existence and makes it possible, during the last years of activity the group embarked itself in a reductive process committed to a design program that privileged the individual's agency to control its own environment.

By presenting this process as a carefully articulated political act, democratic and emancipatory, the book underscores Superstudio’s multiform and heterogeneous nature, sheds light on the relevance of its latest work in defying architecture’s status quo and draws critical lessons regarding the architect’s role in society today, perhaps its most radical legacy.

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