Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione

Thanks to friend of the blog Mosscarpet for a tip on another modernist DIY manual, by the Italian artist and furniture designer Enzo Mari. Following in the footsteps of William Morris, Mari’s Marxist design philosophy is both liberatory and egalitarian. Unlike Morris, Mari embraces the materials of industrial culture, 2x4s and nails, to offer designs that anyone can make without specialized training. Comrades can download Mari’s 1974 manual Autoprogettazione (roughly translatable as “self design”).

The goal of Autoprogettazione is not to just offer measured drawings, rather it’s a manual to teach a vocabulary you can use to design and build your own furniture. Mari says,

Therefore the way should be to involve the user of a consumer item in the design and realization of the item designed. Only by actually touching the diverse contradictions of the job is it possible to start to be free from . . . deeply rooted conditioning.

It’s no easy feat to make attractive furniture from 2x4s and nails but, especially with his tables, Mari succeeds, in my opinion. Some clever folks have even, in a subversive judo move, made Enzo Mari pieces with Ikea furniture parts.

The 1918 flu epidemic claimed the lives of many creative people including Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. I’m sorry to report that we lost Mari to Covid-19 in October.

Thanks again to Mosscarpet–I’ve already used some of Mari’s ideas to design a roof for our adobe oven.

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  1. “How is it possible to accomplish the deconditioning of form as a value rather than as strictly corresponding to content?”

    Love it, thanks!

  2. https://i.imgur.com/PKc8dHP.jpg

    I’m a fan of tripod camping chairs, and have always been interested in this design. Wherein only a metal ring holds the three legs together. The precision, hence the beauty and function, seems to be in the notches made.

    But as a non-woodworker, I’m having difficulty understanding the process involved in making such notches. And this particular tripod camping stool.

  3. The Day-Night sofa designed by Mari in 1971 was refused by the client because it was not enough expensive.

  4. Thanks for the shoutout! Glad you like this work; it does seem right up your alley. (BTW, I’ve been following along since the Survive LA days. Thanks for all the good reads, keep it up!)

    • Thanks again for the tip on this book–it’s already proved useful around the house. And thanks for following us for so long!

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