This workshop explores the link between design and environmentalist discourse in historical perspective. Its scope covers the development of design discourse in Italy between 1954-1986. This period spans three momentous decades in which Italy operated as a laboratory. Practices and proposals that circulated during these three decades are documents per se. Researchers can read them as records of change in culture and society. They offer useful terms of comparison and help describe threads of cross-national networks. They complete a picture of the contemporary international landscape.
The Italian case is relevant for several reasons. The 1950s saw architects and designers eager to discuss the impact of industrialisation. Thirty years later, the Green movement campaigned for a ban on nuclear power plants. A popular referendum was held in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. A majority of voters decided to opt out of nuclear energy. This constituted a striking success for the new Green movement in shaping policy. The jury is still out on the implications and legacy of this success. In parallel, the country was experiencing a series of contradictory phenomena. Italy found itself in a strategic position in the Cold War era bloc politics. External interferences exacerbated a virulent ideological confrontation. A wide economic gap between North and South persisted. Breakneck industrialisation was taking place within a pre-existent structure of outdated institutions. A deep rift separated the two main confessions: Catholic Church and Communist Party.
The workshop argues for the need to fill this gap in historicisation. It invites contributions from perspectives including architecture, design, art and environmental histories. Its aim is to foster exchange and interplay between different narratives and genres. These include design practices, heritage, and environmental conservation. The workshop will offer an environment to test arguments and methods. It so aims to revitalise a stagnant conversation. Contributions exploring the historical continuity between heritage and environmental preservation are also welcome. In the period of time under consideration, some saw industrialisation as a threat. Industrialisation seemed like a force looming on the landscape and architectural status quo. It stimulated a debate on what constituted culture and national culture. This had the goal to establish what was worth preserving for future generations. Was a discourse that intertwines heritage and nature specific to Italy? Some scholars proposed this reading. It is an interpretation worth testing.
These questions have so far been addressed by scholars working within unconnected networks. The workshop is a contribution toward building bridges between approaches and institutions. We aim to develop its proceedings over the next two years into an edited publication.
We invite proposals for individual papers (20 mins) in any area dealing with the aims of the workshop. Topics may include but are not limited to:
- Formal and informal education
- Politics and activism
- Design by non designers
- Infrastructures and cities
- Conservation (architecture and landscape)
- Visual culture
- Utopias and dystopias across the media
- Manufacturing, industrial production, and materials
- National identity in industry and landscape
- Interdisciplinary practices