Toward an Architecture of Distribution: Superstudio's Magazine Works
GRANTEERoss K. Elfline
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
From 1969 to 1974, the Italian Radical Architecture collective Superstudio published a series of drawings and photomontages depicting their fantastical designs for hypothetical megastructures that extended modernist design principles in a hyperbolic fashion. Cold monoliths were seen stretching across desiccated landscapes; gargantuan cubic structures stood alone in vast public spaces; immense slabs stretched to the sky clad in advertising images. Intended as "cautionary tales" of a world overrun by modernist ideals and consumer culture, these ambiguous works have been interpreted in ways that have privileged the content of the images over their material characteristics. Toward an Architecture of Distribution intervenes at this juncture by revisiting these notorious works with fresh eyes. By considering both the pop cultural source material and the mass-produced nature of the finished magazine works, it takes seriously Superstudio's decision to abstain from building while retaining the moniker "architects," thus reinventing the discipline of architecture for a new, media-savvy age.
Ross K. Elfline, assistant professor of art history at Carleton College, is an art and architectural historian whose scholarly endeavors focus on the disciplinary boundaries between art and architecture in the contemporary era. Presently, he is at work on a monograph of the Italian Radical Architecture collective Superstudio, who withdrew from the practice of designing buildings while retaining the title "architects." By simultaneously considering parallel practices among contemporary Italian visual artists, his work opens up a new terrain where issues of everyday life, individual expression and political agency are seen as central issues across disciplines within the Italian avant-garde. A future study will consider the formal and political implications of how sound was used by both architects and installation artists in the 1960s and '70s to produce sonic environments that activated viewers and their bodies. He teaches courses devoted to the history of art and architecture since 1945.
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