FLORENCE, ITALY – Four of the most influential Italian architects, Cristiano Toraldo Di Francia, Carlo Caldini, Lapo Binazzi and Gianni Pettena, came together for the Florence Institute of Design International’s Sketch Workshop to revisit the Radical Design Movement of the 1960’s. The Radical Design Movement had a significant influence in transforming Italian architecture and interior design and still continues to play a revolutionary role in today’s design concepts. The Radical Design Movement, also known as “Anti-Design”, was originally inspired by a dissatisfaction of Italy’s current modern design of the 1950’s and early 1960’s which emphasized the mass production, functionality, and sale of products rather than the creativity, design, and uniqueness. The movement encouraged architects to no longer work as architects, but to develop designs as artists. The Radical Design Movement has inspired designers to think outside the box and create spaces that encourage the use of bright colors, variety of materials, and distinctive furniture pieces.
The Radical Design Movement still to this day heavily influences Italy’s architecture and interior design. The goal of the FIDI workshop aimed to create an environment that allowed Interior Design students the opportunity to revisit this important era and learn directly from some of Italy’s most influential radical designers. The workshop was created specifically for FIDI students, giving them the opportunity to combine their own ideas with the revolutionary ideas of the Radical Design Movement.
The workshop began with each architect giving an introductory speech detailing their philosophy of the Radical Design Movement and a discussion on how it continues to evolve over the decades. Gianni Pettena commented, “The Radical Design Phenomenon” started because his generation was the first generation to not be conditioned by the world war, they were free to desire anything, and they wanted to add color and decoration to the world. They did not agree with the architecture being taught in schools at that time and they were looking to give architecture their version of the story. Lapo Binazzi stated, “[The Radical Design Movement] was a search to find new behaviors and represent a new side of architecture.”
The Radical Design Movement often times was demonstrated through photomontages, video projections, sketches, mock buildings and abstract interior design methods rather than modifying a building’s actual structural design. For instance, Carlo Caldini produced a demonstration that displayed various light projections on the Ponte Vecchio to show that change was not always physical and architects could change a building without touching them.
Once the presentation concluded, students were broken up into separate groups with each architect and given the opportunity to collaborate and express their ideas of Radical Design. Each group was given a separate design theme that was unique to each architect’s style. A series of sketch assignments were then given to each group which had different themes revolving around the role of architecture in the urban environment.
Students were given time to do a series of sketches to initiate their design concepts. However, since the Italian Radical architects worked predominately with photomontage as a medium, the student concepts also were presented in this form. The designs produced will later be composed into a publication showcasing each student group’s design concept. Kirsten Feathers was in Cristiano Toraldo di Francia’s group and commented, “Having always admired the work of Superstudio, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a lecture by one of their colleagues. When I later found out he was to direct my workshop I was overwhelmed and spent the majority of the afternoon in absolute awe. A fantastic day.” Melissa Michelson also commented, “I feel very fortunate to have been able to hear such extraordinary architects come and speak to us. I know this was a rare opportunity to be able to have all these great men together in one place and I am so glad I was able to take part in it. I truly enjoyed working with Lapo in the workshop. It was great to be able to talk with him one on one to show him our ideas for the project and hear his feedback. The workshop overall was a great experience that I will never forget.”
The Architects behind the Radical Design Movement
Toraldo Di Francia was born in Florence in 1941 and most famously known for the founding of Superstudio with Adolfo Natalini in 1966. Superstudio had a significant role in the Radical Design Movement of the late 1960’s. His research work and re-establishment of the language of architecture have been documented in numerous international publications and displayed in major museums and art expositions across the world.
Carlo Caldini is a Florence based architect who has been combining professional practice, teaching, an intense academic research worldwide and trade union assignments. In 1967, together with Giorgio Birelli, Fabrizio Fiumi, and Paulo Galli, he founded the research group, “9999” which devoted to architectural experimentation and sustainability within the Italian radical scene. The group’s work included photo montages, graphics, demonstrations and films. In 1972, 9999 won MoMA (Italy: The New Domestic Landscape) Competition for Young Designers with the project Vegetable Garden House which developed out of experiments in Florence, inside the progressive discotheque the group founded and designed in 1969, “Space Electronic”
Gianni Pettena was born in 1940 and studied architecture at the University of Florence throughout the 1960’s with other students such as Paolo Deganello, Andrea Branzi, Massimo Morozzi and Adolfo Natalini. Pettena helped to create the climate that produced the “Radical” movement, which was the origin of much contemporary experimentation in the field of Italian architecture and design. Pettena among other radicals founded Global Tools a school and laboratory and laboratory system that represented the moment of maximum communal intensity for the movement of ‘Architettura Radicale’.
Lapo Binazzi was born in Florence in 1943, completed his architectural degree in 1971. In 1967, with Foresi, Maschietto, Bachi and Cammeo, he founded UFO, a group which found its place in the experimental climate of Radical architecture. Together, they participated in numerous international exhibitions. In 1973, together with UFO, Binazzi was one of the founders of Global Tools, a workshop for experimental architecture. Binazzi still continues his activities as an architect-artist-designer.

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