Rolling Seventies

text and icons by Andrea Branzi
My generation achieves its own role inside the tectonic movements that mark the passage towards the end of the Sixties from the era of industrial culture (experimental and dramatic) to the long period of Change, which has only recently led to the formation of a mature postindustrial culture.
The renewal of design that began in those years is therefore connected to the more general change happening in western culture; and the “radical” movement is simply a part of this vast regeneration of a political and behavioral framework that suddenly separates our generation from all the others. That separation, which remains unique, happens along the edge of a deeper historical rift that brings a new culture to light, new heroes, but also psychological drama, improvisation, driving many of its protagonists into a situation of constant drift.

Nevertheless, some of the sounds and signs produced back then will remain, as an indelible trademark, in the decades to follow. The strategy of the project changes, putting at the center of the theorem no longer the modernist standardization of the International Style, but the complexity of a society and a market that are increasingly fragmented and conflictual: it is no longer the rational logic of production that dictates the laws and linguistic codes of design, but the ambiguous and emotional logic of consumption that arises at the center of this new cultural period. A different sensibility, more open to the intermediate values of the artificial environment, emerges through primary design, as a capacity to perceive or control the soft structures of the environment.

Other less orthodox cultures, such as fashion and mass communications, begin to influence design methodology. On the one hand, new technologies expand the area of pertinence of design, extending into industrial processes, all the way to the raw materials, semifinished products, production strategies. In an inverse by complementary direction, places of total design autonomy are developed, with respect to industry, as experimental areas, laboratories that produce new languages and new figurations of the object (Alchimia and Memphis). On this often mixed whole of areas of development, the New Design (especially in Italy) gradually takes over all the themes of the postindustrial society and the Second Modernity, to the point of becoming the most advanced element of reference with respect to the entire European design picture, including architecture and urban planning.

The old International Style is thus defeated not so much by a new style as by a new historical era, based on separate metropolitan dialects, in pursuit of local roots on the part of a polycentric and polytheist society, in search of a rationality capable of understanding the irrational, and a culture that encourages (until today) diversification and productive discontinuity.


(Taken from Scritti Presocratici. Andrea Branzi: visioni del progetto di design 1972/2009, ed. Francesca La Rocca, FrancoAngeli, 2010. The text “Towards a New International Language?” is, in turn, an excerpt from an article published in Interni Annual Casa, 1992)