1960s Utopian Groups

Group – Europe

1961 – 1977

The 1960s saw a second wave of utopian architecture in Europe following the social utopias imagined in the 1920s. Some of the approaches focused on emerging cultural conditions, such as mobility and flexibility, whilst others, such as those of Constant Nieuwenhuys and Yona Friedman, saw their utopias as instruments of societal change. What often related these approaches architecturally were mega-structures that could be 'plugged-into' or 'clipped-onto', providing a framework which could be modified, adapted and extended.

The most well-known of the first group are Archigram, formed at the Architectural Association in London in 1961. Using various formats including (fan)zines, comic strips, poetry and radical statements, they produced a vision of a consumerist city, made possible through a faith in technology and the optimism of a time before the oil crisis of the seventies and the realisation of the finite nature of natural resources. Although Archigram were eschewed a directly political stance, their vision of a dynamic architecture inflecting contemporary culture influenced other groups, including those who used Archigram's systems to imagine a socially and politically engaged architecture.

One such group was Archizoom, whose name was a direct reference to Archigram's 4th (fan)zine issue entitled, ZOOM! Amazing Archigram. Founded in Florence in 1966 by by four architects, Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, Paolo Deganello, Massimo Morozzi, and two designers, Dario Bartolini and Lucia Bartolini, Archizoom's work was an ironic response to Archigram's consumerist logic and their desire to detach architecture from politics. They led the Anti-design or Radical movement in Italy producing a number of projects and essays that critiqued Modernism and explored flexible and technology-based approaches to urban design. A related group, also based in Florence and formed in the same year by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, was Superstudio. They criticized mainstream architecture for ignoring and aggravating environmental and social problems, designing polemical projects that imagined dystopian worlds, using an infinite grid as a recurring motif for a continuous and uniform environment. Also related to the Radical movement were Gruppo Strum, founded in 1971 in Turin by Giorgio Cerretti, Pietro Derossi, Carlo Gianmarco, Riccardo Rosso and Maurizio Vogliazzo. The group saw architecture as a means of participating in the social and political protests of the 1960s through organising seminars and distributing free copies of their fotoromanzi (picture-stories).

The influence of these radical groups is seen in the shift from conceiving architecture conceived as static building alone to identifying architecture as a form of cultural critique and finally as a social and political practice.

Other Work

Peter Cook and Archigram, Archigram (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999).

The Archigram Archive at the University of Westminster: http://archigram.westminster.ac.uk/

Dennis Crompton, 'Archigram: At Work', in Exit Utopia: Architectural Prvocations, 1956-76, ed. by Martin van Schaik, Otakar Máčel (Munich: Prestel, 2005).

Peter Lang, William Menking (eds.), Superstudio: Life without objects (Milan: Skira, 2003).

References About

Ruth Eaton, Ideal Cities: Utopianism and the (Un)Built Environment (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002).

Jonathan Ringen, 'Superstudio: Pioneers of Conceptual Architecture', MetropolisMag.com, 2004, http://www.metropolismag.com/story/20040106/superstudio-pioneers-of-conceptual-architecture [accessed 4 February 2010].

Simon Sadler, Archigram: Architecture without Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).

'Superstudio', Design Museum, http://designmuseum.org/design/superstudio [accessed 4 February 2010].

'Archigram', Design Museum, http://designmuseum.org/design/archigram [accessed 4 February 2010].

'Archigram, Archizoom, Superstudio', http://www.megastructure-reloaded.org/en/intro/ [accessed 4 February 2010].


"…if design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design; if architecture is merely the codifying of bourgeois model of ownership and society, then we must reject architecture; if architecture and town planning is merely the formalization of present unjust social divisions, then we must reject town planning and its cities…until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear. We can live without architecture…"

- Adolfo Natalini, Superstudio (1971) quoted at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstudio

"This was the early 1960s (…), a time of great social and cultural change. We were concerned about the way that cities were being developed in the United Kingdom. The population of London (and the southeast of the United Kingdom) was predicted to expand at a tremendous rate for a variety of reasons"

- Dennis Crompton, 'Archigram: At Work', in Exit Utopia: Architectural Prvocations, 1956-76, ed. by Martin van Schaik, Otakar Máčel and (Munich: Prestel, 2005), p. 88.


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