Superstudio was an avantgarde architecture and design collective founded in 1966 in Florence, Italy by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia. Other members included Roberto and Alessandro Magris, Piero Frassinelli and Alessandro Poli. Their work consisted principally of photo-collages, films and exhibitions in which they used a radical Utopian approach to criticize the Modernist thinking in design and architecture.
"In the beginning we designed objects for production, designs to be turned into wood and steel, glass and brick or plastic - then we produced neutral and usable designs, then finally negative utopias, forewarning images of the horrors which architecture was laying in store for us with its scientific methods for the perpetuation of existing models." This was how Superstudio described its work in a catalogue the group produced to accompany the 1973 exhibition Fragments From A Personal Museum at the Neue Galerie in Graz, Austria.
Superstudio was then at the fulcrum of avant garde thinking in architecture and design. Ever since it first surfaced in 1966 at the Superarchitecture exhibition in the Italian town of Pistoia, Superstudio challenged the modernist orthodoxies that had dominated architectural thinking for decades.
By questioning architecture's ability to change the world for the better and the boundless faith in technology expressed by earlier, more optimistic groups such as Archigram in the UK, Superstudio raised issues which have preoccupied successive generations of architects and designers from Studio Alchymia in late 1970s Italy and to the Memphis collective in the mid-1980s, to contemporary figures like Rem Koolhaas and Foreign Office Architects.
Continuous Monument Project
In the early days Superstudio clung to the conventional wisdom that architecture could be a powerful - and positive - force for progress. By 1968, the group had dismissed this notion as improbably optimistic. The following year Superstudio unveiled The Continuous Monument project in which the apparently endless framework of a black-on-white grid - which was to become the group's best known motif - extends across the earth's surface in a critique of what Superstudio saw as the absurdities of contemporary urban planning. The group created photo-collages to show the grid cloaking the Rocky Coast, Coketown and Manhattan.
In 1970, Superstudio then revived the grid - its "neutral surface" - in a collection of furniture manufactured by the Italian company Zanotta. Designed in stark, geometric forms and covered in the ABET plastic laminate traditionally associated with cheap cafes and 1950s coffee bars, its Quaderna tables, benches and seats were a wry, but functional commentary on political disillusionment.
Superstudio dissolved in 1978, but the members continued to work and explore the group's concepts and themes individually.