Radical architecture

Between 1966 and 1974, a European protest movement developed, which claimed an opening of architecture to conceptual and artistic practices, free of any constructivist aim.

If the Italian art critic Germano Celant happened to be the first to coin it “radical architecture” in 1972, speaking of the Florentine scene, the term would quickly be extrapolated to other groups, whether Austrian, English, or American. Developed at a variety of scales, from the domestic to the urban, architecture was then seen as a perpetually reconfigured environment, inscribed in the duration of the action: an installation, a collage, a street performance, an article in a review – each of these could be considered a valid architectural project (“everything is architecture,” said Hans Hollein in 1968). Influenced by Pop Art, the English firm Archigram found inspiration in comic strips, in the imagery of the space race or science-fiction to elaborate utopian projects that anticipated networked society. In Vienna, Haus-Rucker-Co or Coop Himmelb(l)au elaborated prototypes that functioned as psycho-sensorial spaces, beckoning the visitors into a physical and cognitive dimension. Our everyday environment must no longer to be defined in a technical and functional way, but affectively, symbolically, and poetically. This experimental and subversive posture is shared by Italian groups such as Archizoom and Superstudio, who refuse consumerist values and choose derision to condemn the generalised impoverishment of creativity. Consequently, by shaking the certitudes of classic modernity, and by thoroughly reforming the way cities and housing were understood in regards to their confrontation with society, the radical groups enduringly renewed the theoretical and imaginary field of architecture and may well be considered the last avant-gardes of the 20th century.