An artist, architect, designer, a critic and historian of architecture as well as a curator and professor, Gianni Pettena is a key figure of the radical architecture movement that was shaking up the architectural scene in Italy and Europe in the 1960’s and 70s. Like Ettore Sottsass Jr., Archizoom and Superstudio, Pettena contributed to reforming the discipline of architecture, taking an approach strongly influenced by artistic practices such as performance and installation. In his work, language is regularly employed as a raw material, notably in his urban performances (Carabinieri, 1968; Grazia e Giustizia, 1968), in which giant letters stand out as so many ephemeral monuments destined for destruction and raising questions about scale. In the 1970s, Pettena drew closer to conceptual art and Land Art. In this period, his concepts are being physically experimented by being confronted to the scale of the body and the natural and urban context. His book, L'Anarchitetto, published in 1972, left its mark on several generations of artist and architects. In this book, the author refuses to recognize the borders between disciplines and defines himself as an “anarchitect”, a person for whom “speaking about architecture is a metaphor for speaking about a creative condition that is intended for making architecture, but that winds up making art.”
Gianni Pettena (Bolzano, 1940) is a graduate of the University of Florence, where he taught until 2008. In 1971, he won the Trigon competition (Graz). That same year he was invited to do a residency at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and again in 1972 at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City), where he created several performances with his students. In 1974, he participated in the foundation of the experimental laboratory, Global Tools. His pieces have been shown at numerous exhibitions (Milan Triennale, 1973; Venice Biennale, 1979 and 1980). In 1996, he became the exhibition coordinator for the Venice Biennale of Architecture and personally organized the exhibition Radicals, Architecture and design 1960-1975. He has taught and lectured throughout his career.