From the Collection

“I think I can say that Gianni Pettena, like me, considers himself, in addition to being an architect, a writer. This book published by Guaraldi in 1972, demonstrates this, so it is not risky to talk about his writings as literary style”. With these words Lapo Binazzi describe the book, that was inspired by the literature of the Beat Generation and, as James Wine argues, “by Derrida’s theories on deconstruction in language”. Pettena, in fact, conceived it as “an architecture of thoughts […] a kind of map of itinerary around mental process”.

Gianni Pettena: An-architetto. Portrait of the artist as a young architect

Gianni Pettena (Bozen/Bolzano, 1940) together with Archizoom, Superstudio and UFO, “belongs to the original nucleus of the radical architecture, that was active in Italy during the Sixties and Seventies"1. The radical architecture started unofficially, referring to a heterogeneous set of individuals and collectives in whose practice design, architecture and visual art have merged with social and political issues. It was a non-movement whose projects broke with tradition, in order to create new paradigms in opposition to the rationalism of 20th century.    

Development

Even if Pettena took a degree in architecture at the university of Florence, his approach was always opened up by other disciplines in order to go beyond the mere project to practice architecture, seeking forms of expression that were not so rigorous and preferring to spend his time in the art galleries, like l’Attico in Rome or Toselli in Milan. Pettena has always maintained a personal autonomous position compared to the others members of the radical movement to confirm his personality and individual role, as well as his belief to re-think the meaning of the architectural discipline throughout the tools of the visual arts. Extremely crucial were his friendship with the artist and composer Giuseppe Chiari and his studies on the work of Marcel Duchamp and John Cage.

Part2

He was also deeply interested into the artistic practice of R. Buckminster Fuller, Antonio Sant’Elia and Fortunato Depero, who were narrating architectural concepts just using drawings or paintings. Thanks to an invitation, in 1971 Pettena spent two years in the United States as artist-in-residence at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he accidentally met Robert Smithson, who was visiting his land art installation Spiral Jetty. The approaches of the American artists and their attempt to dislocate their practice into open spaces to conceive “expanded works"2 where art, sculpture and architecture were melded into the landscape, had an important role in stimulating Pettena’s radical perspective and in shifting his practice towards other languages.

Book

L’an-architetto3 (An-architect) is a key example of his practice, since it is a not classifiable, atypical book, which combines the features of the essay, the novel, the visual poetry and the photographic diary. Concerning it, his friend Lapo Binazzi wrote: “I think I can say that Gianni Pettena, like me, considers himself, in addition to being an architect, a writer. L’an-architetto, a book published by Guaraldi in 1973, demonstrates this, so it is not risky to talk about his writings as literary style"4. This book, in fact, was inspired by the literature of the Beat Generation and, as James Wine argues, “by Derrida’s theories on deconstruction in language"5. Pettena, in fact, conceived it as “an architecture of thoughts […] a kind of map of itinerary around mental process"6.

Book2

A proper artwork with the aim to “talk about architecture"7 throughout a structure composed by four different parts. The first one contains a series of texts divided into chapters, focused on Pettena’s Italian and American experiences. The writings that belong to this part, mixing different fonts, small letters and capital ones, give an overview on Pettena’s life, practice and thoughts about the relationship between art and architecture. They also blend jumps or integrative parts that interrupt or increase the script itself. Written according to a stream of consciousness, without commas and with a slight punctuation, they slowly bring the reader into the following ones, which show the artist’s projects using a sequence of images, both in colours and black and white. However, in the last part of the book the words pop up again, thus stimulating the reader’s imagination. That’s exactly the reason why Pettena, rather than an architect, is an “inventor of space"8, whose heterogeneous practice questioning the closure of the disciplines.


Text by Michela Lupieri

References

1 This information was extracted from Gianni Pettena's personal website that I suggest to consult to get more information on the author: www.giannipettena.it/english/biography/

2 Rosalind Krauss, Sculpture in the expanded field, October, Vol. 8., 1979.

3 Gianni Pettena, L’an-architetto. Portrait of the artist as a young architect, Guaraldi, Florence 1973.

4 Lapo Binazzi in Gianni Pettena, La città invisibile. Architettura sperimentale 1965-75, la critica e gli scritti del radicale, Opera Universitaria, Florence 1982, p. 138.

5 James Wine, Gianni Pettena, Gentle Radical in Archipensieri. Gianni Pettena, Opere 1967-2002, Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2003, p. 35.

6 Gianni Pettena, Self-critique of L’Anarchitetto in Archipensieri. Gianni Pettena, Opere 1967-2002, Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2003, p. 110.

7 Ibidem

8 Bruno Corà, Gianni Pettena, anarchitect, artist in Archipensieri. Gianni Pettena, Opere 1967-2002, Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2003, p. 15.

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