Superstudio or SUPERSTUDIO as the team preferred to name itself, was an avant garde architectural team created in Italy in 1966. The founders were Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia both architects from the famous Architecture school of Florence. Along with another architectural and design team of the era and closely related to them even in terms of spatial proximity , the ARCHIZOOM ( an association by Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, Paolo Deganello, Massimo Morozzi; and two designers Dario Bartolini and Lucia Bartolini), they formed what was coined as the Radical Architecture Movement.
We will not go in depth into the history or the implementations of their work, because this is firstly easily traceable throughout the internet and secondly it is not the goal of the project. Instead we want to investigate some elements that this radical movement explored and see if we can also rely on their interpretation to further enhance our projected goals.
One of the first elements of their work that we are interested in is the way the SUPERSTUDIO and the ARCHIZOOM use the grid formation. We focused on two projects (one for each team), the Continuous Monument (SUPERSTUDIO) and the Non-Stop City (Archizoom).
Although these two projects share a lot in common they also have a lot that differentiates them. Common is the utopian perspective of them and the use of the grid as a starting point, also similar is the ideal that they have upon commenting on their contemporary consumerist society.
Almost everything else is contradicting one another. In the Continuous Monument the ideal of a society held together only by a thin grid (or grid structure), that can supply them with their necessities, is central. In Non-Stop City, the inhabitants of this limitless urban (?) formation are actually depending on a multitude of newly invented pieces of furniture and their houses that are completely self-enclosed and artificially air-conditioned. There is much more in this comparison and we will not address it here. What we are really interested is the use of the grid (the similarities and the differences) and the way that the two revolutionary thinking teams regard its relationship with nature; and of course Mies…
In the Continuous Monument, Superstudio use the grid and the grid structure to create an overcoat that would make the totality of our planet habitable. In the graphics that follow their utopian project we can see the spatial formation that is constituted by a rectilinear grid, literally in every environment found on our planet.
In one of the very few (and early) sketches we can take a glimpse of what is happening inside this grid. We can see structures like the ones we are used to inhabit today, stacked one on top of another, like a linear city of humongous proportions. In this case we understand that the grid and its spatiality create the environment for the city structure (urbanism) to invade everywhere. Inside of this seemingly uniform grid, everything can be happening. The exterior façade of this project in no way is able to depict or even interact with what is happening inside of it. But in a very strange way, the exterior is the only way for the interior to exist.
This is in very close proximity to the Miesian way to think about a façade.
Furthermore, in another set of envisioning the team sketches out an entirely new condition for the grid. Here we can see a family of inhabitants roaming around a open plane field that is constituted by a never ending grid. According to the team this grid is the ultimate provider of the needs that those people have. What is really interesting to us at this point is the way that this particular grid interacts with nature and the native ground.
In the collage we see the grid plane covering the whole extent of the field. In the same extent there are parts of the grid that seem broken off and reveal the reality that it was protecting us from. Even the presence of the cactus as a natural element, is indicative of the team’s attitude against nature.
In the same way, when we take a closer look at Mies work (Farnsworth, Seagram, Stadtgallerie, Lake Shore drive etc), then we realize an important similarity between the two. When the grid wants to host a natural element, it does not distort its presence, it doesn’t even react, it just opens a whole wide enough for the element to fit in.
It is not a reactionary measure it is an involuntary one.
The same can be said about the Non-Stop City project; although here the moves are more randomized and the set of rules seems a lot more figurative and free. The natural element has no continuity, and it is still encased in the grid. The grid here is much more two dimensional, and all of the focus is being laid on the architectural objects themselves.
Having these great examples to look up to, we had a hard time realizing the difficulty of the process we elected to follow. The diagrid formation that will cover our structure, is not two dimensional or three dimensional per se. It relates upon the elements it encounters, and it formulates itself accordingly. It never breaks or subsides, but it can be taken apart when need.