Superstudio / by Caitlin Murray

Superstudio was an architecture firm, founded in 1966 in Florence, Italy by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia. Superstudio was a major part of the Radical architecture movement of the late 1960s. The founders had gone to school at the University of Florence with Archizoom Associati founder Andrea Branzi and first showed their work in the Superarchitettura show in 1966.

Natalini wrote in 1971 “...if design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design; if architecture is merely the codifying of bourgeois model of ownership and society, then we must reject architecture; if architecture and town planning is merely the formalization of present unjust social divisions, then we must reject town planning and its cities...until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear. We can live without architecture...”

Superstudio abandoned working as a collective in 1978, but its members continued to develop their ideas independently through their writings, via education, architectural practice and other design projects.


Twelve Ideal Cities - Twelve Cautionary Tales for Christmas
Utopian project, 1971
Architects: Superstudio (Alessandro Magris, Alessandro Poli, Piero Frassinelli, Cristiano Toraldo de Francia, Roberto Magris and Adolfo Natalini)

Superstudio evoke twelve visions of ideal cities, the supreme achievement of twenty thousand years of civilization, blood, sweat and  tears; the final haven of Man possession of Truth, free from contradiction, equivocation and indecision; totally and forever replete with his perfection.



Even and perfect, the city lies amid green lawns, sunny hills and wooded mountains, slim, tall  sheets of continuous buildings intersect in a rigorous square mesh, one league apart. The  buildings, or rather the single, uninterrupted building consists of a cubic cells 5 cubits each way; these cells are place one on top of another in a single  vertical stack reaching a height  of a third of a league above  sea  level, so that the relative height of the building varies  in relation  to the level of the ground on which it rises. Each cell has two external walls.  



The city is an endless screw 4.5 km in diameter, completing one revolution a year. Its lower extremity, facing the centre of the earth, consists of  an excavating apparatus (a kind of turbine with blades) that, in revolving, crushes rock, forcing all matter towards the centre of the  cylinder and through a duct up to  the  ground. Above the turbines, the propulsion apparatus an atomic power centre set to last 10,000 years, and the automatic plant and electronic computers that control the city.


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In the most charred, devastated and molten area of that grey space that once was New York, and, more precisely, where Central Park once was, at about 81st, there stands the city. When the others realized that the explosion had irrevocably contaminated all the inhabitants of New York, and that their bodies were rotting without recourse, it was decided to build the city. It is a cube, with a length, with and height of 180 ft, covered in quart tiles measuring 10 x 10 inches, in each of which there is a lens 9 inches in diameter. This covering condenses light onto the photo sensitive layer behind, which transforms it into energy necessary for the functioning of the city.  



If a city can be considered a place where a group of men are born, live and die; if a city is a mother who looks after her  children, furnishes them with all they require  and decides how they shall be happy, if a city is all this, independent of its physical and demographical dimensions, then a spaceship, which for centuries has been following a precise route towards a planet thousands of light-years away, is also a  city. This spaceship is a huge red wheel 50m in diameter. The central nucleus 8m diameter,  contains a computer programmed at the time of departure, to guide the ship, the propulsion apparatus, and all the equipment necessary for the life of the  spaceship and the crew.

The city is a dazzling sheet of crystal amidst woods and green hills, On nearing it, one realizes that it is made up of the covers of 10,044,900 crystalline sarcophagi, 185 cm high, 61 cm wide and 61 cm  deep. The walls separating the sarcophagi are transparent; the bottom however is shiny white.  Inside each  sarcophagi  lies an  immobile individual, eyes closed, breathing conditioned air and  fed by a bloodstream - in fact, the blood system is connected  to a purifying and regenerative apparatus which, through toxin elimination prevents ageing. A series of electrodes applied to the cranium control a n external sensory apparatus of hemispherical form, diameter 30.5 cm;  this hemisphere of silvery metal is capable  of moving and remaining immobile in the air and on the ground thanks to a propulsion system which emits no gas and no noise, and has an unlimited life. One might think that the hundreds of thousands of hemispheres that continually crowd the  air and are suspended  over the city or its surroundings are moved by telekinesis.




The city lies beneath an enormous red and blue striped circus tent.

The tent, suspended by the traction between the aerostats and the thousands of cables anchoring its perimeter to the earth, has a diameter of 2 miles, 205 yards; at its centre stands an enormous cylinder with a diameter 1 mile and a height 100 yards, made of sheet metal nailed and painted silver; in this cylinder lies enclosed a city built of a scale five times smaller than reality; this is a city with about 2 million inhabitants; it has all the characteristics of a modern city, but also contains reproductions of all the major monuments of the world, from the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower, from the Coliseum (reconstructed in its original form) to Sunset Boulevard.

Here's how to visit this fabulous city: after arriving and parking buy a ticket - 50 cents for every minute of your visit to the city. Then pay a deposit for any eventual damage you might cause. This deposit is fixed at $1 for every minute of your visit, but may not, in any case be less than $900 (if you haven't got, you get a loan at the bank next to the ticket office by simply handing over your driving license and the papers of your car: this loan will cost you 5% of the total). At this point you receive the "key to the city".



The  city moves, unrolling like a majestic serpent, over new lands, taking its 8 million inhabitants on a ride through valleys and hills, from the mountains to the seashore, generation after generation the head of the city is the Grand Factory, four miles wide, like the city it continuously produces 100 yds high, the Grand Factory exploits the land and the underground materials of the territory it crosses, and from these marvelously extracts all that it requires for the construction of the city. The Grand Factory devours shreds of useless nature and unformed minerals at its front end and emits sections o f completely formed city, ready for use, from its back end.



The  city rises in the midst of a great plain, surrounded by a canal 600 ft. wide. It is formed of 500 circular levels one above the other, each one of which has a diameter 32 ft. less than the one beneath. Each level is 8 ft. high, thus the total height is 4000 ft., while the diameter of the lowest level is 16,000  ft.

In the circumference wall of each level are doors 2 x 7 ft. At ground level there are 6,500 doors, each successive level has 13 doors less. The 500 th level has only 13 doors, and above this, at the center of the diameter terrace, rises a silvery metal cupola with a radius of 8ft.


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The  city is a machine, such a large machine that not even its inhabitants know its size, its pipelines, its rows of gear-mechanisms, conveyor belts, connecting-rods, stretch away out of sight whichever way one looks, in the din half-light, grey and foggy which fills the cavern it occupies, and whose walls have never been seen.

The inhabitants live in the machine, endlessly dragged along by conveyor belts, by chutes and pneumatic tubes from the time of birth to the time of death. The machine  takes care of everything; along the innumerable routes which intersect, unite and divide according to the incomprehensible programming of the machine. The inhabitants find food and fear, sleep and joy, sex and hope.



The city has, apparently, nothing strange about it: it has streets, squares, gardens, new houses and old; it is in fact a city like any other. The only thing is that it has been governed by the same mayor for forty-five years. The reason for his long stay in office is simple: he had an exceptionally good idea. Instead of trying to suit the  city to its inhabitants, like everyone else, he thought of suiting the inhabitants to their city. Now, 45 years later, things are starting to go really well; the citizens that  jump the lights, damage city properly,  complain about unpunctuality of the buses or the lack of water at the times it is most needed, etc are ever fewer.


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The city has no connection with the countryside because it contains in itself everything that please its inhabitants. It is certainly the most beautiful city in the world, because all its inhabitants, at every moment of their existence, move towards the single goal of possessing the most beautiful house.

The city gives all its citizens the same starting points, that is, it grants every family nucleus the same amount  of space for building a house. In fact, the city consists of a network of parallel roads 10m. wide, which form 6 sqm blocks, each of these 36 sqm blocks is occupied by a single family house.



The book that all citizens wear hanging on a chain round their necks is the spirit of the city. Lefthand pages lists the moral norms righthand pages, codes of behavior on which the citizen bases his life.

The city consists of a series of parallel buildings 10m.  high, 30m. wide, and 10 km. long, with a distance of 3m. between them. Inside each building is a tunnel 10m. wide, 9m. high, and the length of the building.

Every 30m, smaller transverse tunnels (3x3 meters) join the longitudinal tunnels and the external streets between the buildings. The longitudinal tunnels are completely dark, but each citizen is equipped with infra-red visual devices which enable him to see perfectly in the dark.