Born in Pistoia, a picturesque town one hour northwest of Florence, Natalini graduated from the University of Florence in 1966 with an initial interest in painting. Shortly after graduating, however, his formative interactions with Cristiano Toraldo di Francia led to the two co-founding Superstudio and were later joined by Gian Piero Frassinelli, Alessandro Poli, and brothers Roberto and Alessandro Magris.
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RIP Adolfo Natalini. I met him only once, and he told me -only partly in jest I think- ‘I was radical when I was young, one must get it out of the system early’, something that in retrospect feels very truthful… image is of his “Restauro della loggia delle Cariatidi”, The Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens, done while part of Superstudio, 1969–70
Skeptical of the conventions in the fields of architecture and design that had become widely accepted by the 1960s—corporate modernism, suburbia, and the rampant consumption of natural resources—Superstudio first made a name for itself by exhibiting subversive illustrations of alternate modes of planetary inhabitation. The firm’s renderings of impossibly-scaled mirrored pyramids and continuous gridded landscapes, devoid of the conveniences of modern-day life, were later referred to as “anti-architecture,” or what today might be described as an architecture of degrowth. Superstudio teamed up with other like-minded groups, including the Florence-based firm Archizoom Associati, to present their criticisms as far and as wide as possible for a firm practicing on the fringes of the field.
After Superstudio dissolved in 1978 following a 12-year run, Natalini entered private practice the following year to apply his singular vision to built projects throughout Italy’s historic centers. His designs for the Edificio Per Office ad Alzate Brianza in Como (1978) and the Teatro della Compagnia in Florence (1987), for instance, exemplify the architect’s ability to reframe pre-modern sites with bold postmodern design (often using grid designs first employed while as a member of Superstudio). He then became a full professor at his alma mater and established Natalini Architetti with Fabrizio Natalini in 1991, one of the last projects of which was the partial renovation of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence (2009).
The news of Natalini’s death comes five months after news of Cristiano Toraldo di Francia’s death in August 2019.