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GIANNI PETTENA - Together with Archizoom, Superstudio and UFO, Gianni Pettena belongs to the original nucleus of the Radical Architecture movement in Italy. Born in 1940, he studied architecture at the University of Florence. In the ‘60s, with other students such as Paolo Deganello, Andrea Branzi, Massimo Morozzi and Adolfo Natalini, he 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. An atypical student, he spent more time in art galleries than in the university lecture halls. He maintained a personal, autonomous position, convinced of the necessity to re-think the meaning of architecture as a discipline, working from parallel fields and sectors, cultivating his own contacts with the world of visual arts more than with academic debates, to which he did, however, take part.

Since, he sustains, “artists build and architects draw,” that is, artists take the place of architects in proposing visual languages directed at the transformation of physical space, it seemed to him that a revision was necessary for the theoretical and operative origins of architecture, a discipline that already in those years was for him closer to the language of conceptual art than to the realization of technical projects. Even before his degree (1968) he started on the route of “alternative design” and began an experimental activity that is rooted in personal experience, often without regard to the necessities of professional practice.

There are many examples: furniture for his studio in Florence, designed to the scale of the place and not to human scale (Rumble sofa, 1967); installations dialoguing with significant places within the urban context, such as the giant word-objects built out of corrugated cardboard on the occasion of artistic events and abandoned to the wear and tear of time and weather (Carabinieri, Milite Ignoto, Grazia & Giustizia, 1968); or clothes hung out to dry on clotheslines that cross the entire Piazza del Duomo (Laundry, 1969), contrasting the activity of everyday life to the static condition of the places of politics and power; or setting up a painting exhibition (Dialogue Pettena-Arnolfo, 1968) as “a lesson in architecture,” a temporary distortion of the Renaissance purity of a fiftenteenth-century building that, once removed, might provoke a more conscious perception of the building and the surrounding spaces.

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