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Italy: The new domestic Landscape. MoMA 1972 #MoMA


In 1972 the polemic exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” was staged in the MoMA of New York, curated by the Argentinian architect Emilio Ambasz. 180 houseware objects were displayed on the garden of the museum, such as Achille & Piergiacomo Castiglione’s “Arco” Lamp or Vico Magistretti’s “Selene” stackable chair. They were chosen to exemplify the different intellectual approaches to design that coexisted in Italy during the sixties.

A group of selected Italian architects and designers were purposely commissioned for designing a range of “environments” that would also exemplify these different positions. Some of these “environments” followed the line of the Italian “radical design”, focusing on the critics to the capitalist society or representing alternative utopias, such as the Strump Group’s polemic pamphlets or the empty, endless space built by Superstudio. On the contrary, other authors paid special attention to new forms emerging as a result of changing patterns of life style: more informal social and family relationships and evolving notions of privacy and territoriality, as well as the exploration of new materials and production techniques.

Ettore Sottsass Jr. designed a transformable environment made by mobile, connectable storage units that contained all the needed domestic appliances. Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper designed a transportable, expandable emergency housing unit out of a freight container. Joe Colombo presented in this exhibition his last work, the Total Furnishing Unit, made up of four furniture blocks that could be spread or combined to allow the highest variability. The common feature of these proposals, halfway between furniture and architecture, was its absolute independence from their surrounding space for making a habitable environment.

Italian design may be seen as a micromodel whose examination and evaluation may help us to better understand the mutual relationships that exist between design and society. Emilio Ambasz, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, 1972