Theses Doctoral

The Responsibilities of the Architect: Mass Production and Modernism in the Work of Marco Zanuso 1936-1972

Blakely, Shantel

The topic of this dissertation is the significance of industrial design in the work of architect Marco Zanuso (1916-2001), who lived and practiced in Milan, Italy. As a leading architect, as well as a pioneer in industrial design in the early postwar period, Zanuso was a key protagonist in the relationship of postwar Italian architecture culture to industrialization and capitalism. He is therefore an indicative figure with respect to the broader shift from Modernism to Postmodernism in architecture. Whereas previous studies of Zanuso have addressed either his architecture or his industrial design, this study traces the mutual influence of these practices in Zanuso's early work. The four chapters examine a selection of his projects to reconstruct their relationships to concurrent discourses in Italian art, architecture, and industry. In addition, the chapters show how these projects can be understood as conceptual and practical benchmarks along the way to the eventual realization of a continuum of design from small to large scale, and especially an architecture in which the serial nature of mass production would be explicit. The first chapter, whose topic is Zanuso's relationship to Italian modern architecture between the two World Wars, relates his embrace of mass-production around 1946, in essays on prefabricated architecture, to his student work in the 1930s and to his first projects during Reconstruction, emphasizing the influence of the Gruppo 7, Giuseppe Pagano, and Ernesto Nathan Rogers. The second chapter, whose topic is architecture and art, looks at Zanuso's mural-covered Viale Gorizia building and other projects, and at his involvement in the "synthesis of the arts" discourse with adherents of the Italian <bold>arte concreta</bold> ("concrete art") movement, including Gillo Dorfles, Mario Ballocco, Bruno Munari, and Gianni Dova. The third chapter identifies the mass-produced apartment complexes on Via Laveno (1963) and Via Solaroli (1965) as Zanuso's first realized examples of industrial architecture, and places these in the context of the broader assimilation of industrial production methods by artists and architects in Milan around 1960. In addition, the third chapter examines the portrayal of Zanuso in the press in relation to the emergence of the architect-designer as a public figure in Italy and the identification of the industrial product with consumerism. The fourth chapter, whose topic is Zanuso's association with Olivetti, considers his factories for the company, designed between 1953 and 1972, in relation to the corporate program conceived by Adriano Olivetti, with Leonardo Sinisgalli and others, to intercalate rational design and planning into the fabric of civic and social life, from the object to the territorial scale. By scanning Zanuso's early work through these topics, this study demonstrates that he drew imperatives from various sources. Together, these investigations show that his industrial design practice proceeded in tandem with his incorporation of production into architecture, in keeping with his longstanding ideas about the architect's responsibility to maintain civility in the use of technology. The argument of the dissertation is that, while Zanuso's interest in design reflected a wider fascination with technological capacities, it was also a means by which he gained access to practices of mass production that he went on to apply to architecture and interiors as well as to furniture and appliances. From this point of view, his work belies the generalization that in Italian industrial design, the aims of modern architecture were subordinated to the consumerism and commercial culture that arrived in Italy after the War, and overtook Milan during the 1960s.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Frampton, Kenneth B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 9, 2011