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Architecture Misfits #5: The Futurists

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The futurists were misfits in more ways than one. They had a manifesto – a written statement of what they believed in. The modern equivalent would, I suppose, be the “vision statement” that we see in business plans – only with more poetry to it. Here’s their point #7, for example.

We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace (or NIKE, to many).

[Winged] Victory of Samothrace (wikimedia commons)

Founded in 1909 by the poet F. T. Marinetti, Futurism remains Italy’s most significant contribution to twentieth century European culture. Marinetti wanted to break with the oppressive weight of Italy’s cultural heritage and develop an aesthetic based on modern life and technology, particularly speed and the machine.

This quote was taken from the website of the Estorick Museum. Have a look when you’re in London. In the early 20th century, everybody had a theory about something, but it wasn’t just about painting.

They also did sculpture.

‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space’, 1913 bronze by Umberto Boccioni, wikipedia

Fashion. (for more details, see here.)

Stage design.


Costumes by Fortunato Depero for his ballet ‘Machine of 3000’ (1924)
Courtesy the Depero Museum, Rovereto (via dieselpunk)

(!!?? Let’s have a quick look at “Machine of 3000” – apparently the two “locomotives” are in love with the station master. Let’s hope it works out.)

Gardening. (This is not faceitious. Despite being organic, bonsai or a Japanese garden, is no less unnatural.)


Cooking. Yes! (Go here for more details.)

Alaskan Salmon in the rays of the sun with Mars sauce, Woodcock Mount Rosa with Venus sauce, a sculpted meat cylinder, and the non-meat sculpture Equator + North Pole. Yum!

Dining as theatrical event.

they made their own fun

Since Futurists were against history and tradition, Marinetti was against pasta, claiming it made Italians lazy and so on. The photograph below found its way into circulation around the same time. Marinetti claimed it was faked.

Marinetti tucking into a big plate of spag (allegedly)

Graphic design and advertising. Check here for more images of the work of Fortunato Depero.

Campari and soda is still sold in the bottle designed by Depero in 1932

Interior design.

Giaccomo Balla, again.

Architecture. (thanks dieselpunk!)

Study for a 1927 Biennale pavilion
by Fortunato Depero

One of the Futurists’ provocative characteristics was their fascination with the noise and dynamism of war – which is why not many of them lived to be old. Normally, Antonio Sant’ Elia is counted as a Futurist because of his “forward looking” designs but it’s more likely he gets mentioned with them to forge a link with art because, otherwise, there would be a big space in the history books – not least of all Sigfreid Gideon’s long book “Space, Time & Architecture where he had this to say.

The middle bit makes sense. Sant’ Elia did have an idea when people were looking for one. All his manifesto called for, however, was the sensible use of modern materials to adapt to mobility and change – which seems a sensible thing to do.

There was much about The Futurists that was a bit naïve and perhaps more than a bit disingenuous at times. The good thing about them, and the reason why they are the subject of this blog is that


To The Futurists – have one on us, Misfits salutes you!  


  • 1914 for “utmost elasticity and lightness”
    2012, still yet to get there.
    architects of “sustainability”, still time to learn.

  • Remember that very soon after 1909, WW1 broke out and the futurists got a real taste of what Europe would look like after some of their “Articles” became fulfilled.

    Would you mind sharing the fate of some the authors during WW1? How many survived and is there a record of any of them having second thoughts about the manifesto post-war?

    Well, I know what Mussolini went on to do for Italian Architecture, although not an author of the movement, but an ardent nationalist like the majority of young Italian men.

    Article 11:
    “We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive”gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.”

    • Hello Francisco. I just collected some information into a post that goes some way towards answering your question. Most survived but it’s Severini who put the most distance between what he thought before the war, and what he thought after. Oddly, it’s Sant’Elia who’s the only one who died on duty, but Marinetti did his bit as an active supporter of Mussolini. To be fair, a lot of the Rationalist architects were Fascists but then, as they later rationalised (no pun), it was impossible not to be one. As I mentioned in the post, people can want to go to war for all sorts of reasons, but I don’t think aesthetic preference is one of them.