The Italian designer Andrea Branzi is dead

In 2009, he dreamed of releasing cows and monkeys in Paris, to celebrate a more human, less anthropocentric metropolis

The Italian designer Andrea Branzi is dead

In 2009, he dreamed of releasing cows and monkeys in Paris, to celebrate a more human, less anthropocentric metropolis. Utopian and visionary Andrea Branzi, Florentine architect, designer and design theorist, died of a heart attack at the age of 84 on Monday October 9. He has influenced generations of creators, such as the British Jasper Morrison or the French Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

Born in Florence in 1938, graduated in 1966 from the city's architecture school, Branzi was one of the leaders of the Italian protest, rebelling against modernism with rigid lines, houses organized like factories , mass production and furniture with purely functional purposes. Within the Archizoom group, a major player in radical architecture, he denounced the smooth world of Le Corbusier, then founded Studio Alchimia in 1976, working to spice up the daily lives of his contemporaries with his random shapes and colors.

At the dawn of the 1980s, he collaborated with the Memphis group, led by the other troublemaker of Italian design, Ettore Sottsass. The movement, with pop art and Art Deco inspirations, gives pride of place to kitsch materials, vibrant colors and asymmetrical shapes, not without a touch of humor.

“He believed in objects that brought luck.”

In 1985, Andrea Branzi designed a first series of Domestic Animals – chairs, sofas, shelves, etc. – into which wood taken from the forest was inserted – so many “animals” in the process of being domesticated, of which one would remain little wildness. With this combination of Arte Povera and industrial production, of the natural and the artificial, he left a lasting mark on the history of design. “Domestic animals live like beneficent spirits in our homes, hence my objects,” explained the maestro, champion of a “neoprimitivism” which encouraged the rebirth of craftsmanship and the use of natural materials.

From then on, his projects took on an anthropological dimension, the creator aspiring for a return to the primitive condition of man and advocating coexistence between species. Its latest collections of objects for the home are inhabited by the same concern, that of a “sensitive” design: favoring emotion over rationalism, “high touch” over high-tech, the “kingdom of the living », as indicated by the title of his latest collection of poetry (Nel regno dei vivei, 2022, untranslated). “My objects may seem out of step with the market, but they precede the trends. I work on intuition. I don't apply theories. What interests me are the transformations of the world, the history of men,” he confided to Paris Match in 2014.

“Opposed to the rationalist myth of the modern project, Branzi believed in magical thinking, in objects that bring luck, in the sacred dimension of existence,” analyzes Marie-Ange Brayer, head of the “design and industrial prospective” department at the National Museum of modern art-Centre for industrial creation of the Center Pompidou, which holds more than 200 works by the Italian in its collections, from Archizoom to today. “He continued to forge links throughout his life between art, design, architecture, the common score of which was music which deeply permeated his life and his creation,” she adds.

His latest work designed for the Center Pompidou – a bamboo forest, punctuated by painted signs, which refers to the sacredness of the gesture, “is given as a living and symbolic story of our being in the world in the larger project of nature which would be at the same time, according to Andrea Branzi, cultural and spiritual, physical and metaphysical”, specifies the curator. Three times awarded the Compasso d'Oro and honorary titles awarded by the United Kingdom and La Sapienza University in Rome, Andrea Branzi directed the Domus Academy, a prestigious design school in Milan, for three years. He has exhibited at the Milan Triennale, the Venice Biennale, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Bordeaux.

“A sort of soothsayer of possible futures”

“Andrea knew how to see the future,” emphasizes his Italian friend Stefano Boeri, president of the Milan Triennale and architect (among others) of the Bosco Verticale (“vertical forest”), a tree-covered tower in the Lombard city. He was a sort of soothsayer of possible futures. He had demonstrated this with Archizoom, with No-Stop City – by predicting the urban sprawl of the 1980s and 1990s – and with Agronica (Domus Academy), anticipating the idea of ​​a fusion between city, living nature and agriculture. We discussed this Saturday, October 7, how to relaunch our proposal, made in 2009 for Greater Paris, of a release of animals in the French capital, and he was now thinking of a thousand sacred cows grazing on the Champs- Elysees. »

The latest project of these two accomplices is a film produced a year ago by the Triennale, Andrea Branzi. Exhibition in prose, which constitutes his intellectual testament. The design theorist knew he had to leave an imprint in our memories. “Rome, what’s left of it? Neither architecture nor the military or political system, he confided to us. Only poets and artists have survived and ensure that Rome remains Rome in the collective imagination. »