Cristiano Toraldo di Francia sadly passed away on July 30. Cofounder, along with Adolfo Natalini, of the Florentine Radical design and architecture group Superstudio, Cristiano was the kind of person who was incredibly open-minded, shared a sharp sense of humor, and professed a deep love for humanity. While accolades spread across the internet following news of his passing, there was a lot to Cristiano that didn’t make it into these postings, tributes, and memorials. What might have been most lacking in all these accounts was the way he shrugged off fame and shunned formality. Yet he never wasted a moment, had infinite stamina, and to stick by him you needed to react fast and move quickly. Cristiano was a perceptive and ever-present photographer, and it is thanks to him that so many historical moments during their superlative adventure were captured for posterity. When I asked him about how he got into photography, he spoke about his father, Giuliano, who was a renowned physicist, recounting an odd story about how he was introduced to his first photo-camera. As Cristiano told me, in an interview at his house in Filottrano back in 2005, his father “…designed lenses for Ducati, at that time they made electronics—now they´re making motorcycles. They made cameras, radios. And they made a micro-camera, which anticipated the cameras of today, instead of the normal 35 mm film --24x36mm, they were using 24x18mm film, so it was fantastic. Italy was poor at the time, everything had to be reduced! Cristiano couldn’t help make a quip about the States, and while proudly acknowledging that Italian technology was inventing incredible things that were “almost too advanced for their time,” in America “everything was big—big cameras, big cars. But that camera was a jewel... Just to say that since I was a child I was initiated to the mysteries of photography—the images coming out of the acids, of the paper.” Probing further, I asked Cristiano what his relationship was to the burgeoning Florentine fashion industry in the early sixties when he was a professional photographer. “I was making family portraits at the time to raise money. In Florence, there is a big tradition around the Alinari family that besides all the city portraits,” now in the Alinari Archive in Florence, “they shot a lot of family portraits, but these were like paintings, all retouched, like Photoshop. “They were perfect photographers- so this tradition was present. I was trying to do a very different kind of photography. I looked more to the American model. A journalistic kind of picture, Diane Arbus... Not so much Man Ray or the historical ones. “I became quite successful at the time. All these noble mothers came to make photos in my studio. After a while, I was asked to do fashion photography, but after a while, Superstudio started and I quit. But of course, I had all the contacts and all the people- I was friends with Oliviero Toscani for example,” who would go on to make the controversial photographic campaigns for Bennetton. With his usual irony, Cristiano pointed out that he also worked as a fashion model, for the kind of magazines that were constantly referencing architecture. It’s hard not to talk about the origins of the Italian Radical movement without getting into influences, of which there were many: “We started…” as Cristiano clarified in that same interview, “…on parallel levels, looking at Archigram, but even more we looked back at Dada and then to Pop-art that was bringing the Dada methods up to date. Fluxus—breaking boundaries and being completely interdisciplinary, fluctuating from one activity to the other. But on the other hand, Archigram had this political information as background—for which we could say maybe we were more idealistic than them. They were more pragmatic, more Anglo-Saxon.” Dan Graham connected his generation to Rock and Roll, and given the times, it is clear that music played a considerable role for Cristiano. When I spoke to Cristiano about music when we met in December of 2002, he had this to say: “When I talk about the importance of music, we don’t deny having discovered a person like Bob Dylan, or the Beatles, it was a time when popular music reached great artistic levels, Laurie Anderson, the whole group of Fluxus, back then there was a system of self-propulsion, in every field…” What is critical in understanding Superstudio is precisely this level of mixing passions that the art and architecture curator Lara Vinca Masini referred to as “contaminations.” Cristiano stabbed at this point by bringing in Aldo Rossi: “Yes the work of Rossi and others was interesting, but it was always inside a discipline with few confrontations with the world that went much faster than their own reasoning.” Getting back to the Florentine music scene, Cristiano credited his father with exposing him to experimental music when he was beginning university. In a conversation I had with him in 2005, Cristiano remarked: “My father was a scientist, and as a scientist he was traveling a lot and, in a way, disillusioned and relativistic. He was asked in 1963 to become president of the young contemporary music association. One of those members was Sylvano Bussotti,” a Florentine native, musical polyglot and noted dandy. “One was Giuseppe Chiari,” the atonal musician, close to John Cage and a member of Fluxus, “and the other was Pietro Grossi,” a Venetian electronic musician and composer living in Florence. “I remember they were making concerts of electronic music, and one concert was in the Conservatorio di Musica Cherubini which is a traditional music conservatory. And after 10 minutes of this music people went crazy.” Evidently, for this generation of young architects living in Florence in the sixties, these were incredibly stimulating years. Superstudio detoured around the traditional tools of the architect, experimenting with alternative forms of expression and representation. When Emilio Ambasz showed up in Florence around 1971, scouting for ideas for the upcoming exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape for MoMA, the young curator was seeking out experimental “environments.” These would be full-scale prototypes for living, accompanied by films serving as animated captions. Yet I wanted to know just how Superstudio produced this project, what kind of technology was used to build this elaborate environment and how did they create their 12-minute film Supersurface. The main backer for the environment was the manufacturer Print but they also had to procure other funders, due to the elevated expenses. According to Cristiano, they found the supplies they needed in Florence, the special reflective glass and the electronic components key to simulate alternating moods of day and night inside the environment. It took 15 days to manually assemble it before the show opened in New York on May 26th, 1972. The movie was instead made during the winter of 1971- 72 and it was filmed in 36 mm. “I worked on that with Sandro Poli,” the Superstudio member officially present between 1970 and 1972, “we found the music, made the soundtrack, with the professional help of a guy who made advertising for TV (Marchi Producers), who had that mentality, and in fact, we wanted it to be projected as if it would be an advertisement for the Supersurface. The first part presents in a scientific way how the thing is done, and the second one tells how happy you will be living there.” In fact, both making the environment and directing the animated film were very labor-intensive hands-on processes. I asked Cristiano what role the Italian manufacturers had in producing Superstudio’s concepts. Cristiano’s response was that these factories were mostly made up of artisans. “That is why we managed to make a series of objects from very different things and from really different materials. Most of these objects are coming out of a kind of bricolage. The factory made almost nothing—we had to find artisans who did the different parts. The industry would just put the parts together. We were doing a kind of bricolage Cheap-scape—as Frank Gehry would say—for the industries.” The Italian design industry seemed to work as an artisanal chain assembly. But what was still not clear, was why did these manufacturers get behind a group like Superstudio to make things that worked against the idea of mass consumption? Why would they sponsor designs that were against their best interests? “We thought these objects we were making were a kind of trojan horses that coming from inside the system would produce criticism, which means creativity, which means refusal, or incredible love. They were objects of poetic reaction for the people. They were not mass-produced, they were in little series, multiples, like works of art.” To this day I still think about Cristiano’s trojan horses, and his incredible love.
Posts tagged with "Florence":
Italian architect Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, master drawer, and cofounder of famed 1960s and ’70s collective Superstudio, has died at the age of 78. Best known for starting the radical design firm while studying at the University of Florence with partner Adolfo Natalini, Toraldo di Francia was a catalyst for the radical architecture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though the group built very little, it excelled in creating avant-garde narratives and installations for major exhibitions as well as producing highly-regarded drawings, videos, and lithographs. Superstudio’s influential architectural research, design, objects, and theoretical work were featured in both the Milan Triennale, the Venice Biennale (several times), and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as the Design Museum in London, among others. Several international museums have acquired their work over the years including the Centre Pompidou and the MAXXI in Rome. In 1972, Superstudio was invited by curator Amelio Ambasz to participate in its first U.S. showcase, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Though the collective fell apart by 1980, its effect on the architectural profession was huge. It’s said that Superstudio’s penchant for imagining outrageous mega-structures majorly shaped the design minds of Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. In the early 70s, Koolhaas focused his final thesis at the Architectural Association of London on the Florentine group. Born in 1941, Toraldo di Francia also became a respected Italian architect, author, and educator in his own right in Italy. After Superstudio broke up, he continued to work independently in Florence and eventually in Filottrano, Italy. Some of his major projects include designing the Livorno waterfront, the Florence Statuto Railway Station, the San Paolo di Prato Banking Institute, and the Banca del Chianti headquarters in San Casciano Val di Pesa. Arguably one of his best and most controversial designs was the La Pensilina di Santa Maria Novella that served as a bus and taxi terminal adjacent to the 1932 Florence train station. Inspired by the striped patterning added to the facade and interior of the Santa Maria Novella church by Leon Battista Alberti in the 15th century, Toraldi di Francia made his elongated pensilina structure just as radical with skylights and ample marble material. It was built in 1990 ahead of the World Cup but later became inhospitable and dysfunctional. It was eventually dismantled by The Renzi government in 2010. In addition to designing, Toraldo di Francia taught and lectured at a number of universities Europe, the United States, and Japan. He was a founding faculty member of the architectural school at the University of Camerino in 1992. He worked there regularly until transitioning to the role of adjunct professor in 2011. A memorial is planned for the architect possibly this Thursday. Peter Lang and AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking wrote a book on Toraldi di Francia, his colleagues, and the Superstudio collective, Superstudio: Life Without Objects, which was published in 2003. Lang will follow up this initial obituary with a longer, more in-depth piece.
Brought to you with support from ->
The newly completed VoipVoice headquarters, located in the Empoli region of the Florentine countryside in Italy, is part of a research program aimed at reactivating industrial areas which witnessed a decrease in construction due to the building industry crisis. The project, designed by Pisa-based LDM.iMdA architetti associati, breaks the boundary between private and public spaces through opening the front of the building to develop a new connection with the city.
The facade consists of a glass curtain wall on the ground floor and, on the upper floor, an expanded metal screen mounted to the concrete structure. This stratification is meant to open up the first level as a public space and transition to privacy in the second level office spaces while still providing light permeation. The metal screen is an aluminum expanded metal rhomboidal mesh where the size of each rhomboid is 200 by 64 by 20 millimeters (7.87 by 2.51 by 0.78 inches). The metal is given a gray powder-coat finish to reflect the sun off of the building and to protect it from weathering. The rhomboid apertures are fabricated at an angle to create a brise-soleil, blocking sunlight during the hottest days of the year and allowing the sun to penetrate the facade during the winter. The intent was to create the perception of a solid building within its urban context without ever sacrificing access to daylight and surrounding views. The screen continues over all windows in the facade above the first floor. On the interior, it makes itself present through the patterns it creates in the glass partitions’ reflections and the shadows projected onto the walls, floors and ceilings. The material is visually drawn through the building envelope toward the interior and extends the implied connection between the inside and the outside. The same aluminum screen, powder-coated with a darker color, is used on an adjacent fence, creating a visual layering effect which emphasizes the material and its inherent pattern. VoipVoice Headquarters (Courtesy Medulla Studio) LDA.iMdA said in a statement that the purpose of the metal facade is “to create views over the surrounding hills and landscape and, at the same time, curate a perfect link between light, material, and shadows so that it can produce feelings of wonder in people who use the workspace.”
This has been an exhilarating year for those who cherish drawings. Following on the heels of the marvelous Thaw collection last fall at the Morgan, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s winter season opened with an extravagantly wonderful exhibition of Michelangelo drawings and designs, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. The show, which was sponsored by Morgan Stanley and was open from November 13, 2017 to February 12, 2018, consists of 133 drawings, sculpture, and a replica of the Sistine Chapel, each requiring scrutiny and contemplation, which isn’t easy given the crowds. Many years of intense scholarly study by Carmen C. Bambach, curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Met, has culminated in a wide-ranging survey of the artist’s work, his mentors, and students. Besides offering what seems like an endless sequence of exciting images, the show highlights some important issues, not the least of which is the current devaluation of the medium as a means of visualizing and understanding the world we inhabit. While it disappears from our academies today, during Michelangelo’s day, drawing was just becoming a significant component in art and culture in the mid-15th century. The Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence had just opened, and within its program, drawing assumed an important position alongside architecture, sculpture and painting. Also, the “finished drawing’ was highly prized and its worth accrued if given the designation, “dalla sua mano” (by his very hand). Alexander Perrig, in his book on Michelangelo’s drawings, Michelangelo's Drawings: The Science of Attribution, eloquently describes the emergent tendency to value the evidence of a personal language and unique vision: He writes: “But drawing is not a bone displayed for veneration. It embodies a piece of the imaginative world of its creator.” This show charts the development and range of Michelangelo’s vision. We enter his tortured, anxiety-ridden world and find that the work seems to speak to our historical moment despite the centuries that separate us, for they offer powerful insights into the human condition. And it is through the intimate touch–hand to paper–that these sights and insights are given form. Exhibitions focusing on drawings help keep the idea alive that drawing cannot be supplanted by the digital rendering. While there might be some overlap, each is capable of accomplishing different tasks in different ways. Personal finished drawings were precious then. Michelangelo gave them as heart-felt gifts to dearest friends–a gesture that wasn’t valued in monetary terms, but rather appreciated as a sign of intimacy and friendship. As Bambach discusses each of the works in the show, she addresses the contested drawings and throws her hat into the ring siding with one or the other Michelangelo scholars and connoisseurs based on her system of observation and physical evidence. The contention over the attributions of drawings by Michelangelo has a long history of scholarly literature and many unsolved problems remain. The enormous weight given to this discussion provokes a question: Why is attribution so important? Too often authentication serves to enhance value. But it is of great significance according to Perrig, who has disattributed a great number of generally accepted works. “Every misattribution tends to distort historical reality as a whole by imputing to an artist someone else’s thoughts…it saddles the creativity of the assumed creator with contradictions that did not exist, and at the same time makes the art of the actual creator appear more one-sided and insignificant than it actually was.” The exhibition proposes a broad definition of drawing as a medium but also as a means for thought. The wonderful book produced for the exhibition, written by Bambach with essays by Claire Barry, Francesco Caglioti, Caroline Elam, Marcella Marongiu, and Mauro Mussolin, does much to extend our notion of what constitutes drawing. It categorizes the many applications: sketches, finished and unfinished drawings (a theme explored somewhat murkily in the recent exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible at the Met Breuer, drawings from wax models, presentation drawings, “modani” or full-scale templates, drawings for painters such as Pontormo, to execute and the architectural plans–each distinct in its application while sharing a common hand and concept-driven project. The exhibition also provides insight into the artist as a teacher. In the hand-written notes that appear on the drawings, we see Michelangelo prodding and encouraging his students. Their studies are punctuated by his urgings to “draw!” and to “be patient.” The attribution dilemma is complicated by these student drawings, some of which attained a level sufficiently sophisticated enough to confuse many scholars. The illusionistic architectural elements, such as the structure of the Sistine Chapel, offer insight into Michelangelo’s emplacement of figures. The “quadro” or designated setting was a means for both isolating and connecting the narrative. It deployed a system entirely different from the pre-Renaissance predellas which consisted of a large iconic image resting on a series of small, distinct panels that carried a thematic narrative. These isolated, elaborated altar-like structures appeared like out-scale objects to heighten faith. Instead, Michelangelo contrived an entirely novel system by melding an illusionistic architecture based on while deviating from the actual one. This structure or invented “architecture” established a realm for the figures to inhabit and in many cases against which they appeared to struggle. The result was a kind of total design, revolutionary in its time. Mauro Mussolin’s useful essay finds a evidence of this approach even in such details such as the corner volutes in the Laurentian library, that he finds key to understanding Michelangelo’s ability to contrive an organic unity. These details attest to his ability to visualize the projection of space and his stunning visual memory. Adding to this notion, the late Leo Steinberg includes a temporal element in his design process, in his discussion of Michelangelo’s last painting, “On the deepest level of Michelangelo’s visual thinking, the meaning of the historical occasions as a rite of foundation and an affirmation of faith is expressed in the tectonic character of the design.” It is an arduous task to sum up grand exhibitions of this sort–a delight to the eyes and to the spirit. It is a profound reckoning not to be missed.
In 2014, the micro storefront art cooperative Base/Progetti for Art in Florence launched Radical Tools, a series of speaking events held in their single window facing Via San Niccolò on Florence’s “left” bank. Most of Florence’s historic Radicals showed up to participate, and this event proved that, despite past animosities, rivalries, and other unfathomable differences, the Radical generation could possibly come together at last. From there, the exhibit, "Radical Utopians: Beyond Architecture: Florence 1966-1976," evolved, though it originally was to open in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of emergence of the Superarchitecture movement. But for the usual complications, the exhibit was delayed a year. Perhaps this was a forgivable slip if one considers that there were two debuts for the Superarchitecture movement, one in Pistoia in 1966, and the other in Modena in 1967, and that even those two dates were precariously fixed. The exhibit, nonetheless, is a Florentine first, as up till now, no one was ever able to bring all these main players into the same space. It is also likely that this won’t happen again. The curators, Pino Brugellis, Gianni Pettena, and Alberto Salvadori, with Elisabetta Trincherini acting as curatorial coordinator, faced a heap of criticism for daring to shake up conventions, separating the group’s sacrosanct works by themes, eroding in the process the hierarchies that had been persevered among them. But there were many, like myself, who feasted on this splendid eye-opening smorgasbord of projects, objects, films and other Radical life accessories. After all, this assembly of Florentine Radicals: Superstudio, Archizoom, 9999, UFO, Zziggurat, Gianni Pettena, and Remo Buti, in their native home of Florence, with works collected from group and individual archives as well as from private collectors, manufacturers like Poltronova, and major museums like the Pompidou Center, represents an impressive curatorial feat. Just to see Archizoom's collection of clothing, “Dressing Design,” on display, created principally by Lucia Bartolini, with her modular dress patterns intended to encourage the user to be her or his own stylist, or her intriguing “hairy” leggings, promoted by Fiorucci for his fashion collection, are in themselves worth the while. Besides a good number of precious pieces by Superstudio and Archizoom, this is also an occasion to become immersed in the works of the other Florentine Radicals: Gianni Pettena’s images from different cities featuring his first political “statements” using his monumental alphabet, along with his underground films and American land art-inspired house series. Then there are the images of UFO ‘s pre-postmodern semiotic-inspired performance extravaganzas, and most prominently their enormous Colgate inflatable suspended in the Strozzi palace’s outdoor courtyard. Also on view is 9999’s compilation of videos taken of the Living Theater inside their Space Electronic discotheque along with their Franciscan-inspired illustrations for a film never realized. Along with Remo Buti’s original airbrushed renderings of his ideal cities, one can view his important collection of imprinted architecture white ceramic dinner plates. And then there is Zziggurat, whose name is legendary, but whose works are rarely displayed. Here are the most architectural drawings of the exhibit, including their 1969 project “la citta lineare per Santa Croce (the linear city for Santa Croce),” a jagged and immense superstructure that rips through the heart of Florence, programmed with cultural and public activities. This project, as Elisabetta Trincherini pointed out in a recent exhibit walkthrough, could clearly have inspired Rem Koolhaas’s 1972 Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture. As Andrea Branzi once remarked, this was a generazione esagerata, or an exaggerated generation. These no-holds-barred Radicals lived in the same city, frequented the same university, and mounted the same barricades. Their incredibly fertile years of invention and re-invention have made an enormous mark on our common psyches, whether we are ready to acknowledge their contributions or not. But this is a chance to immerse oneself in their world. If you can’t make it to Florence before January 21, there is a catalogue by Quodlibet Habitat, sold in Italian and English editions. This might well be the most up-to-date and comprehensive publication yet, and will certainly serve as a useful Radical primer. "Radical Utopias" is on view at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence until January 21.
Five projects have been short-listed in the 2015 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture—Mies van der Rohe Award. Over the next few weeks, jury members will visit each of the five buildings and a winner will be announced on May 8th at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona. You can take a look at the five finalists below. Danish Maritime Museum Bjarke Ingels Group Helsingør Denmark
From the architects : The new Danish Maritime Museum is the culmination of a fifteen year vision and master plan to transform Helsingør's former centuries old shipbuilding harbor that had in days past employed thousands but had since fallen on hard times into the city's cultural heart celebrating Helsingør's storied maritime history. The 5,000 m2 subterranean museum is within and built around one of the harbor's dry docks adjacent to Kronborg Castle of Hamlet fame, thus the dry dock itself forms the centerpiece of the museum's collection.Antinori Winery Archea Associati Florence, Italy
From the competition website: A cultured and illuminated customer has made it possible to pursue, through architecture, the enhancement of the landscape and the surroundings as expression of the cultural and social valence of the place where wine is produced.Ravensburg Art Museum Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei Ravensburg, Germany
From the architects: We formed a structure with largely closed brick facades, for the sake of optimal protection for the art works. By using recycled brickwork we created a connection between the old buildings and the new construction. In this context we are interested in using recycled building materials as part of a sustainable approach. This results in the self-supporting structure of the roof vault. The building is of the first museums ever built in a passive house standard.Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, London School of Economics O’Donnell + Tuomey London, United Kingdom
From the architects: The proposal was to create an active Student Union, using democratic, everyday, unusual architecture of useful beauty, born out of an understanding of context. The brief was to bring student facilities together under one roof. The multi-functional building includes a venue, pub, learning café, media, prayer, offices, gym, careers, dance studio and social spaces. The brief asked for the “best student building in the UK” and had the aspiration for BREEAM Excellent rating. The design achieved BREEAM Outstanding.Philarmonic Hall Szczecin Barozzi / Veiga Szczecin, Poland
From the architects: The building houses a symphony hall for 1000 spectators, a hall for chamber music for 200 spectators, a multifunctional space for exhibitions and conferences, and a wide foyer. In its materiality, the building is perceived as a light element: the glass facade, illuminated from inside, allows different perceptions. The exterior austerity and the simple composition of the interior circulation spaces contrast with the expressiveness of the main hall and the concert hall with its gold-leaf covering.