Architect Andrea Branzi, pioneer of radical design, dies

Architect Andrea Branzi, pioneer of radical design, dies

At a time when architecture and design only promised mass production, the Italian invented a critical, satirical and poetic world that influences many designers today. He just died at the age of 84.

Andrea Branzi, Italian architect and designer

Andrea Branzi, Italian architect and designer Photography by Rudolf Escher/Divergence

Written by Xavier de Garcy

Published October 10, 2023 at 3:20 pm.

Updated October 11, 2023 at 9:56 AM.

IHe was one of the symbols of the Italian “radical” movement. Architect and designer Andrea Branzi has died at the age of 84, leaving behind a diverse body of work, many writings and many disciples. It all started in Florence, the city where he was born in 1938, in a family that distinguished itself in the fight against fascism. In the early 1960s, Andrea enrolled at a local architecture school. But how can you be an architect in a country where cities are little more than historical gems, surrounded by soulless residential neighborhoods and working-class metropolises? The student then realizes that the modern movement, such as that of Le Corbusier (1887-1965) or Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), has failed in its project to build a new world: according to him, urban planners and architects are “Unable to explain and manage the serious social and cultural conflicts resulting from forced industrialization”. resulting from their production “A kind of direct representation of power mechanisms, social divisions, and classes.”.

Attracted more by the Beatles and popular culture than by his elders’ theories of structural standardization, Branzi embarked on a delightfully satirical critique of the emerging consumer society. In 1966, after submitting the Luna Park project (an amusement park) for his master’s thesis, he co-founded the Archizoom Associati group, which developed the program for itself. “Combining socialist realism and pop art” Labor and consumerism. “We were Marxists, of course, but in this Italian tradition where political questions, those related to the quality of life, the quality of well-being, come together in a very developed vision.” He will explain.

Pluralistic modernity

Drawing on furniture to express its ideas, Archizoom innovates first “Dream family”Large beds with wavy shapes, “Kitsch furniture is capable of destroying the good taste of bourgeois homes, like new Trojan horses.”. Then, at the Milan Triennale (1969), the group presented ““Center of the Selective Conspiracy” The Afro-Tyrolean style is dedicated to Malcolm And one “Arabic Style Garden Terraces Postal Catalog” : Archizoom aims to put an end to the dominance of Western industrial design as it has existed since the 1920s, and this would be one of Andrea Branzi’s great ideas: Modernism is no longer just an idea. “Al-Tawhidi”. It will now be multiple and diverse, without hierarchy.

The next step is even more troubling. In 1970, Archizoom developed the “No-Stop City.” she suggests “A vision of history completely dedramatic, restored to its secular dimensions, completely deprived of tragedy, because it is deprived of metaphysics. A radical vision of industrial civilization, as producing a horizontally repetitive decorative system and thus bereft of the cathedral.”. No-Stop City is a giant parking lot on which nomadic objects are placed, between architecture and furniture. This narrative of the city is presented in the form of a model surrounded by mirrors that endlessly repeats its plans.

Little things are never small things.

In the “Radical Notes” he wrote for review caspella, Branzi then believed that architecture was no longer of real importance. What matters now are the media, television, radio, and, later, computers and digital networks. Essentially, for him, things, when they become supportive of relationships and exchanges, are what make architecture exist.

Therefore, Branzi participates in all the groups (Global Tools, Alchimia, Memphis) that tried in Milan in the 1970s and 1980s to create a world that no longer necessarily involved mass production, but through small series, or even mass production. . The designers of this movement no longer consider themselves to be in the service of manufacturers. They invent their own world without waiting for command. If the industry isn’t interested, too bad.

This is how Branzi conceives the idea of ​​“Animali Locali” (domestic animals): he sees the world of material things as animals of infinite variety. “Objects in the home are never fully functional tools, but should be understood as friendly presences, good luck charms.” Concretely, the idea is presented in the form of furniture whose back is composed of branches of raw wood: each piece is different and unique. “Animali Locali” also contains the idea of ​​city dwellers reconnecting with nature. The idea will flourish.

Multiple pilot projects

For my stool “Little things are never small things”. Besides his many writings and numerous experimental projects, he had a passion for vases. He invents all kinds and in many materials: ceramic, aluminum, plastic… and he is able to talk about them for hours.

Finally, Branzi rehabilitated the decoration that his elders had forbidden: “The idea conveyed to us of decoration is that it is a by-product of painting, a very reductive product; ‘decorative’ It is often synonymous with the promotion of graphic and metaphorical phenomena that would remove ornament, through its repetitive placement, of all cultural value. This reductionist concept needs a complete review. The idea of ​​decoration has its own novelty, and in this respect it represents a very advanced aesthetic production, including in the field of pictorial research. »

In 2014, the Bordeaux Museum of Decorative Arts and Design dedicated a major retrospective to him. A well-deserved tribute to this pioneer who has long been misunderstood in France, which loves technical rationalism. Because basically, the architect who became a designer is one of the first to understand the 20th centuryH The twentieth century, in its desire to unify life, was hopeless. By approaching the world as it is, fluid, diverse, and changing, Branzi opened a path that will not close.

Transmission No. 1, Interview by Andrea Branzi with Catherine Gill, La Cité du Design-Éditions de l’amateur, 2006.
non stop city, By Andrea Branzi, Library of Architecture and the City, 2006.
alexandra medall, Design, an introduction to the history of the discipline, Pocket Press, 2009.

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