Lapo Binazzi and Gianni Pettena

In Conversation with Tim Parsons
Monday, September 18, 11:00 p.m.Tuesday, September 19, 1:00 a.m.
Art Institute of Chicago Rubloff Auditorium
230 S Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL
United States

Presented with Expo Chicago, The Chicago Architecture Biennial, The Architecture & Design Society of the Art Institute of Chicago

Gianni Pettena, Wearable Chairs Performance

The UFO group was founded in Florence in 1967 by Lapo Binazzi together with Carlo Bachi, Patrizia Cammeo, Riccardo Foresi, Sandro Gioli, and Titti Maschietto. The group embodied the subversive creativity of the Italian Radical Architecture scene, striving toward a vision of social utopia and collective experience distinctive of the late 1960s at the University of Florence, where Binazzi graduated with a degree in architecture in 1971. In 1968, UFO began the Urboeffimeri series—seven interventions set against the historical backdrop of city of Florence featuring a series of inflatable elements on an urban scale. Public spaces themselves were crucial to UFO’s performances, which consisted of actions aimed at creating disturbances in social attitudes and architectural references. UFO also turned its attention to individual behaviors along with the strong critique of bourgeois attitudes as an essential part of interior projects such as discotheques, restaurants, and shops. These projects included the Sherwood restaurant (1969) and Bamba Issa (1969–71), a discotheque in Forte dei Marmi featured, with its distinctive Camel-shaped sofas, on the cover of Domus magazine in 1970. Other notable projects are the inflatable Casa Anas installation (1969), the Lampada Dollaro (1969), and Giro D’Italia (1971–74), a futuristic performance which took place at the Space Electronic in Florence, the disco designed by 9999, another Radical collective.

The Commuter The Disequilibrating System Series

UFO always operated in a borderline territory between conceptual design and Pop, performing outdoors in public while at the same time incorporating stereotypes into domestic design objects—such as the effigy of a dollar in the Dollaro lamp, or the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or Paramount logo for table lamps (1973–75). Lapo Binazzi defined the concept of “discontinuity” as an additional essential category of the group’s creative being; he has succeeded in striking the balance between these two seemingly contradictory approaches, cutting across architecture, design, visual and performing arts, fashion, cinema, and philosophy—all with the aim of ensuring a deep cross-pollination between these different disciplines.

In the 1970s, Binazzi became one of the founding members of Global Tools, the experimental school whose main focus was experimentation, and then went on to be part of Studio Alchimia, the renowned design laboratory that encompassed different artistic disciplines. Together with UFO, Lapo Binazzi has participated in numerous international exhibitions such as the XIV Triennale in Milan (1968), the VII Paris Biennale (1971), and the XXXVIII Venice Biennale (1978), with solo exhibitions at Alchimia (Florence, 1981), Documenta 8 (Kassel, 1987), The House of Dolce Stil Novo (Florence, 1991), and R & Company (New York, 2016). Lapo Binazzi currently lives, works, and teaches in Florence.

Bocca sofa in red designed by Studio65 Wearable chair designed by Gianni Pettena Fiore Artificiale wall lamp by Gino Marotta Cactus coat rack by Guido Drocco and Franco Mello Formaggio designed by Lappo Binazzi for UFO. Image courtesy Joe Kramm

Architect, artist, and critic Gianni Pettena, based in Florence, belongs to the original core group of the Radical movement in Italy, together with members of Archizoom Associati, Superstudio, and UFO. Pettena graduated in 1968 from the University of Architecture in Florence, where he later taught History of Contemporary Architecture until 2008. Even before he finished his degree, he was already conducting his own experimental activity, mixing research and personal experience. In 1967 Pettena designed the furniture for his home-studio in Florence, adapting it to the scale of the place rather than conventional human scale. Some pieces, such as the Rumble sofa and the Babele table, were put into production by Gufram.

Though he never denied his academic education as an architect, as of his early works (1968–1971) Pettena had shown a preference for the tools of language and visual arts. His 1968 installations Carabinieri, Milite Ignoto, and Grazia & Giustizia were giant cardboard word sculptures installed in significant outdoor locations so that audiences could interact with them in the urban context. Following the publication of this and other works in Domus magazine, Pettena was invited to the United States in 1971 as an artist-in-residence at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His work as a teacher and critic at these schools led him to academic conferences and seminars across the United States and in Europe, especially in Italy. During the years Pettena spent in the USA, he experimented with conceptual environmental art, combining elements of nature and architecture and further exploring materials. An example of this is Clay House, 1972, a middle-class residence covered in hand-spread clay.

As a critic and architecture historian, Gianni Pettena has organized exhibitions on contemporary architecture worldwide and penned a number of critical publications, among them L’anarchitetto (1973) and Radicals: Architettura e design 1960–1975 (1996). His works have been presented in different international museums such as the Mori Museum in Tokyo, the Barbican Center in London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Metz, as well as international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale and Manifesta in Zurich. Gianni Pettena lives and works in Fiesole, near Florence, where his studio is concealed by a fake stone wall behind which he likes to scare the visitors from a hidden peep-hole.

Safari Sofa with San Remo floor lamps

This lecture has been approved for 1 LU by AIA Chicago

Presented with the Chicago Architecture Biennial