The new generation of young italian architects attempted to get over the alienation they faced in the production and the general behaviour towards design; in moving as far away as they could, they were in what we could define as a true “crisis of the object”. This was evident in the practices carried out by Superstudio as they proposed a ‘life without objects’ or rather a post-capitalist life without our fetishised tie to goods. Objects are the tools that serve the fundamental necessities of our nomadic and connected existence: Superstudio’s photo-collages disclose groups of people eating and conversing comfortably, either sitting or walking across boundless smooth and gridded surfaces extending across deserted territories.

Superstudio, Supersurface-Life, 1972

Superstudio, Supersurface-Life,

The use of architecture to improve human behaviour can also be seen in the works of Gruppo 9999. The group from Florence seeked a more loving relationship between man, the environment and technology (in this case a sustainable impulse that is much more common today): a return to antique primordial and essential things such as food and water whilst in parallel focusing on technological progress. Their objective was to re-establish the relationship between man and nature (a primordial and forgotten world but very much present in the modern daily life).

The project of Gruppo 9999 was based on the premise of nature as something primitive and remote, something other than modern technology. A vision similar to the classic one of the pastoral landscape, in the original sense of an idealised nature, idyllic and mythical, a celebration of the natural environment.

Both Gruppo 9999 and Superstudio place their utopia of antimatter in a remote and distant nature.

Radical Disco: Architecture
and Nightlife in Italy, 1965-

In Italy during the 1960s and 1970s a number of discotheques open across Italy, including several designed by architects of Radical Design, a movement active in the 60s and 70s populated by architects such as Gruppo 9999, Superstudio and UFO. Dissatisfied by the limitations and ineffectiveness of post-war modern design, these architects sought to use their profession as a tool for societal change and to challenge the idea of architects’ role in society. In a period of change and contestation in Italy more generally, these socially orientated, politicised architects saw discos as a new type of space for multidisciplinary experimentation and creative liberation. The display explores this little-known phenomenon through archival photographs, architectural drawings, film, music and articles from the international design press.

Italy’s discos were known as Pipers, named after the first such venue, which opened in Rome in 1965. Designed by Manilo Cavalli, and Francesco and Giancarlo Capolei it featured reconfigurable furnishings, audio-visual technologies and a stage for Italian and British acts from Patty Pravo to Pink Floyd, who performed against a backdrop of works by artists including Piero Manzoni and Andy Warhol.
 Check out our YouTube playlist of tracks that played at the Bamba Issa discotheque in the early 70s
Pipers generated interest amongst many young architects, sparked by a course on the topic at Florence University. Participants included Giorgio Ceretti, Pietro Derossi and Riccardo Rosso who designed both Piper in Turin (1966) and L’Altro Mondo in Rimini (1967). Florence was home to Superstudio’s Mach 2 (1967) and Gruppo 9999’s Space Electronic (1969). Inspired by New York’s Electric Circus club and Marshall Mcluhan’s media theories, Space Electronic hosted everything from performances by Living Theatre to a vegetable garden. In Milan Ugo La Pietra designed Bang Bang (1968), a disco entered through a boutique, while on the Tuscan coast Gruppo UFO designed Bamba Issa (1969), a Mickey Mouse-inspired disco.

These pioneering spaces united innovations in art, architecture, music, theatre and techno- logy. They represent some of the only built examples of Radical architecture. Yet the phenomenon was short-lived, by the mid-1970s most had closed or been transformed into more commercial spaces.

Gruppo 9999, prototype for the
Vegetable Garden House at the
Mondial Festival, Space Electronic,
Florence, 1971. © Gruppo 9999,
courtesy of Carlo Caldini

Space Electronic during the Mondial Festival,
co-organised by Gruppo 9999 and Superstudio,
Space Electronic, Florence, 1971.
© Gruppo 9999, courtesy of Carlo Caldini

Gruppo 9999

Living Theatre at Space Electronic

The stage and audio-visual
system inside Piper, Turin,
designed by Pietro Derossi,
Giorgio Ceretti and Riccardo
Rosso, 1966. © Pietro Derossi

The interior of L'Altro Mondo,
designed by Pietro Derossi,
Giorgio Ceretti and Riccardo

Ufo: Swinging lovers at Bamba
Issa, in the beach resort of
Forte dei Marmi, 1970.
Photograph: Carlo Bacchi/
UFO Archive

“To be honest, I think the discos were the only places that would have their designs. They were a new kind of neutral space where there were no boundaries between disciplines like architecture, art and music.” tects-italy-nightclub-design-60s-70s-ica