Superstudio: Discorsi Per Immagini

By Federica Vannucchi

The design collective Superstudio (1966-1978), composed of Adolfo Natalini, Christiano Toraldo di Francia, Roberto Magris, Gian Piero Frassinelli, Alessandro Magris and Alessandro Poli was formed at the moment architects were coming to terms with their inability to have an impact on the urban context. At the same time architects were facing the unforeseen effectiveness of print media and the ability to communicate, distribute, and amplify their work through architectural journals. The tension between these two tendencies is reflected in the collages of Superstudio. The medium chosen by the group was the two-dimensional image; the content of the representation was the city in its social and political existence.

Architectural historians usually consider Superstudio’s projects, and in general their overall enterprise, unclear and conceptually incoherent. The Italian historian Manfredo Tafuri stated that Superstudio’s use of the image was instrumental for the creation of the self-mystification of their work. More generally Tafuri’s critique was part of a larger debate on the function and significance of the architectural image in a society of consumption. A different idea was expressed by Carlo Giulio Argan, who thought that even though the possibility of being absorbed by the logic of the easy speculation of image was high, the architect could not disqualify the use of the image as an intellectual enterprise.

Within this framework, the intention of this thesis is to reconstruct the theoretical project that motivated the work of Superstudio and in particular their use of the image in relation to the most iconographic of their projects: the Continuous Monument. By ‘reading’ the collages visual format, we consider how this project has been affected, by the use of the image as the formalization of the architect’s speculative re-thinking on the present architectural debate, and by the conscious employment of the image as communicative tool, carefully edited for publications. Moreover, a comparison of the presentation of the Continuous Monument to the public through major publications and the state of the project as collected in its Florentine Archive is central to the present study.