Italian design collective
Studio Alchimia (1976-1992) was an influential collective of designers and theorists who worked to promote the avant-garde through various media and methods. Uniting behind the goal to bring the most radical concepts into reality, Studio Alchimia built upon the energy of already-established groups such as Archizoom while also proving foundational for the subsequent emergence of movements such as the Memphis Group.
Alessandro Guerriero launched Studio Alchimia in Milan in 1976, as a space in which creative radicals could come together and collaborate in both theory and practice. These innovators brought differing perspectives, but shared in their interest in the “anti-design” movement, which rejected the industrial premise and minimalist elemental approach that had guided major movements in the earlier twentieth-century such as the Bauhaus.
Sharing in this vision were contemporary masters such as Andrea Branzi, Alessandro Mendini, Michele de Lucchi, and Ettore Sottsass, who joined the collective to establish what they called “Nuovo Design,” which involved design concepts that embraced new technologies but that also incorporated a play with form and color that deviated from the pure functional focus of earlier modern designers.
They displayed an array of these design prototypes at their self-titled “Bau.Haus uno” exhibition in 1978, which was followed by “Bau.Haus due” the following year as well as an appearance at the Venice Biennale in 1980. The positive response to these showcases reflected the extent to which contemporary culture was ready for radical design. The pinnacle of these accolades came in 1981, when Studio Alchimia won the coveted Compass d’Oro award for their innovative approach to design research.
The dynamic team of artists and designers that gave Studio Alchimia its energy eventually began to chafe, particularly as Sottsass attempted to push the group’s design thinking in a direction counter to their overarching credo. Sottsass would leave and go on to fuel the Memphis Group (1980-1988), but Studio Alchimia also continued to hold sway in the design world until the collective finally disintegrated in 1992. They still play a central role in a study of the history of Italian design, a testament to which was the inclusion of some of their work in a 2011 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that showcased the best of postmodern expression, and the “Radical: Italian Design 1965-1985, The Dennis Freeman Collection.” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (February 14, 2020–April 26, 2020).
Last updated: February 8, 2020
For additional information on Studio Alchimia, please visit Alchimia – Milano
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