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Toward a specialisation in the technomorphic architecture

This series of articles should be read in the frame of a genuine interest towards the most radical avant-gardes of Post-war Architecture Debate originated in the years I spent as a student at the Polytechnic School of Genoa and, the, refined, during the years I spent at the Laboratory of Theory and History of Architecture 3 at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. All the topics I addressed out in the last years, from the conception and construction of the Centre Pompidou, to the environmental experiments of Leonardo Savioli and his students, up to the pop assemblages by Group UFO, convinced me to focus my interest in those post-war experiments attempting to introject the methods and aesthetics of industrial and technologic products to conceive what Adolfo Natalini and Toraldo di Francia once labelled as “Technomorphic Architecture”.

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The evolution of the cast node of the Pompidou Centre: from the “friction collar” to the “gerberette”

published in Ine Wouters and alia (ed.), Building knowledge, constructing history: Proceedings of the 6th International Congress on Construction History (6ICCH 2018), July 9-13, 2018, Brussels, Belgium, CRC- Taylor and Francis, Brussels, 2018, Vol. 2, pp. 715-723.

Awards: Best Paper Award of the Construction History Society; Scholarship for the Best PhD articles of the Conference

The paper is devoted to a reconstruction of the evolution of the most significant and original part of the structure of the Centre Beaubourg, now the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou, one of the masterpieces of 20th-century architecture born out of the collaboration between Piano+Rogers, the office of architecture run by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano since spring 1971, and the Structures 3 division of Ove Arup & Partners, directed by Povl Ahm and made up of Ted Happold, Peter Rice, John Morrison and Lennart Grut, among others. Between the preparation of the competition project in 1971 and the beginning of the process of prefabrication of the structure at the end of 1973, the piece of the structure that later came to be known as a “gerberette” went through a complex process of evolution that led from the solution proposed in the competition, based on the “friction collar,” a special joint that allows floors slabs to move vertically, to the development of the “gerberette,” a sculptural cantilever of cast steel able to counterbalance the load of the slab by means of a special system of pre-tension. 

The Evolution of the Pompidou Centre’s Air-Conditioning System. Toward a new figure of architecture.

The evolution of the Pompidou Centre’s Air Conditioning System. Toward a new figure of architecture, in James Campbell and alia (ed.), Studies in the History of services and construction. The proceedings of the fifth conference of the Construction History Society, Construction History Society, Cambridge, 2018, pp. 57-70.

Awards: Scholarship for Best PhD article of the conference

The integration of technical services in architecture played a crucial role in the history of post-war construction. The Centre Pompidou, conceived and realized between 1971 and 1977 by the architecture studio Piano and Rogers and the engineering firm Ove Arup and Partners, is an excellent example in this regard.

Instead of reverting to traditional solutions such as service areas or suspended ceilings, Piano and Rogers chose to exhibit all the services of the building – from the air conditioning ducts to the movement system of people and goods – both in the interiors and exteriors. Exiled outside the envelope and placed within the “three dimensional walls” of the building, or rather clipped onto them, the Centre Beaubourg services were designed to serve the principle of “the maximum flexibility of use”. During the design process the refinement of these elements and the surrender to the pioneering audiovisual screens intended to animate the Centre’s main facades, created an unprecedented aesthetic value. Initially conceived as simple functional tools, the Centre Beaubourg services became symbolic and didactic devices designed to make the building a man-scale machine, both joyful and understandable.

This paper focuses on one of the main services of the Centre Beaubourg, the air conditioning system, and aims to retrace the genesis and evolution of this element thorough all the phases of the design process, from the first ideas animating the preparation of the competition’s proposal to the prefabrication of the built solution.


The assemblage as a figurative text for architecture. A dialogue between UFO Group and False Mirror Office

Boris Hamzeian, Andrea Anselmo et al., (for False Mirror Office), L'assemblaggio come testo figurativo per l'architettura. Un dialogo tra Ufo e False Mirror Office, in “PianoB. Arti e culture visive”, vol. 4, n. 2 (Collage di carta, collage digitale: concetti di architettura a confronto), February 2020, pp. 88-118.

Contemporary architecture is undeniably indebted to 20th century art. It is sufficient to think of the artistic procedures recovered and altered to turn them into design procedures aimed at overcoming a rationalism now reduced to simple formalism.

Among these operations, the assemblage, used since the beginning of the twentieth century in the context of the Cubist, Dada, and Surrealist avant-garde, was resumed and declined during the 1960s, involving objects of use and mass products in an ironic or critical key, as indicated by pop art, or insisting on the archetypal dimension of materials, as suggested by arte povera.

In its application to the discipline of architecture, starting from the 60s, the assemblage goes beyond the field of representation to become an instrument for the generation of architecture and is developed through the use of other references ranging from literature to semiology. Through this new orientation the assemblage finds an eloquent expression in the projects of one of the groups of the so-called Radical Architecture, that of UFO group, active between 1968 and 1978, and consisting of Carlo Bachi, Lapo Binazzi, Patrizia Cammeo, Riccardo Foresi, and Vittorio Maschietto. It is in the work of UFO group that the assemblage becomes a composition of significant objects, selected and juxtaposed to give life to eloquent environments, to be understood as real figurative texts. The presence of people in these assemblages is crucial in the construction of an interior design, that environment that spreads in the sixties, which becomes a sort of theatrical set design for the elaboration of a fantastic narrative. This is the last stage of a complex creative path that is charged with the demands made during the 1968 protests, taking shape in a playfully political discourse, at times using semantic games and at times inflatable pop forms.

On the wake of the spread of this process in other architectural groups in recent decades, False Mirror Office looks at the assemblage as a creative tool capable of juxtaposing objects belonging to a universally recognized collective imagination, sometimes modified to transfigure its meaning, to invent an architecture that is a deliberately ambiguous narrative able to open up to continuous reinterpretations.

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