The revolutionary story of Radical Design gets a moment in the spotlight

The revolutionary story of Radical Design gets a moment in the spotlight

At the beginning of SuperDesign, a film examining the visionary, Italian Radical Design Movement in the 60s (view trailer here), Gianni Pettena, one of the designers interviewed remarked, 'our influence was of art, not architecture.' This is a point well-taken in light of the humorous, colour saturated amorphous objects in the coinciding exhibition 'SuperDesign: Italian Radical Design, 1965-1975', on view at New York's R & Company. A decade in the making, the exhibition is the brainchild of Evan Snyderman, co-founder of the design gallery R & Company and journalist and design curator Maria Cristina Didero.

A nucleus of designers and architects, who were students at the University of Florence Architecture School, responded to the political, social, and cultural turmoil by rejecting formal architecture and began publishing anti-design manifestos and eventually formed design studios. It was here that the Radicals, as they were known, created myriad, playful objects with strong visual impact and a socio-political edge, changing the landscape of Italian design circa 1960s.

SuperDesign: Italian Radical Design, 1965-1975 on view at R & Company

Their work extended to interior design of discotheques such as the 'Bocca' (or 'Lipstick') sofa, which found its way to the Playboy club in New York and 'Puffo,' a stool by Pietro Derossi, Giorgio, Ceretti and Riccardo Rosso. Their creativity extended to sets for performances where the fusion of fashion, photography, lighting, and music, reflected the trends of the era.

On view is the essential contribution of the studios (and their rarely seen archival photographs) – Archizoom Associati, Studio 65, Superstudio, UFO, and Gruppo Strum – where ideas were shared, formulated, and objects produced. Highlights include: Lapo Binazzi’s 'Formaggio,' wedges of fantasy sized-cheeses; 'UP7,' sculptural lounge chair in the form of a foot by Gaetano Pesce; 'Wearable Chairs,' by Gianni Pettena whose photographic print of 'Global Tools' and poster IOSONO LA SPIA are displayed; and 'Pratone', a polyurethane foam lounge chair one dives directly into.