As the 1960s picked up speed, with protests against the Vietnam War and consumerism becoming a global phenomenon, a group
of students in Florence became increasingly frustrated with the methods used to
teach architecture. They could not relate to prewar modernist models, and they resented their faculties' detachment from contemporary social discussions. To address their concerns, they founded
what would later be known as the Radical Architecture movement, which thrived for more than a decade as the leading labo-ratory for Italian architecture and design.
Among the students was Gianni Pettena (b. 1940), who defined himself as an "anarchi¬tect." His neologism proposed both nonar¬chitecture and anarchy as ideal conditions for the development of creativity. For example, his unconventional design for a couch, called Rumble (1967), went beyond functionality: It was conceived not according to human scale but rather to the scale of a room, as if it was an indoor landscape, while its configu¬ration depended on human interaction.
Pettena felt closer to art than to architecture, but he was nonetheless proud to proclaim that, unlike some Radical architects, whose projects were realized only in photomontages, he was able to build everything that he designed. In 1972, he refused to participate in "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape" the pioneering exhibition for Italian design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York—preferring to mount a solo show of American landscape photography at John Weber Gallery. The critic John Masheck, in an Artforum review, called him "an architect actively on strike."
International audience for the first time Pettena's prolific practice as architect, theorist and artist. It contains his published writings and documentation of his numerous projects and situates him among the most active and connected intellectuals of his field. He taught in internationally renowned universities, foresaw the prominence of Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas and engaged in close dialogue with fellow architectural mavericks like Robert Smithson and Buckminster Fuller. Advocating an organic interaction between architecture and art, Pettena maintained his focus, presciently, on social and environmental awareness.