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23.05.11

What is
Supergraphics? 

- The Editors

 

Over the next six days we are posting edited versions of some of the interviews conducted for the book Supergraphics – Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaces [Unit 02]

The term Supergraphics is almost completely divorced from its origins in 1960s architectural theory; today, it means big graphics in an architectural setting, and is more commonly referred to as environmental graphics. 

Yet the term once had a more precise meaning: it was coined by the writer and critic C Ray Smith (1929-1988) to describe what he saw as a radical departure in the use of colour and graphics amongst a group of post-modern architects he named the Supermannerists.

To set the scene, here are some definitions of Supergraphics written in the 1960s and early 70s by critics and practitioners. Tomorrow, we publish an interview with Barbara Stauffacher Solomon.

Image above: Mark Holt Image to the right: Studio Uebele

The Quotes: 

Supergraphics are so gigantic that they cannot be contained within the frames of a single architectural plane. Either they extend on to adjacent planes – from wall to floor or ceiling if  their forms are painted in toto – or they appear as fragments of an over-all graphic image.
C. Ray Smith

Architects began experimenting with Supergraphics to emulate the spatial effects of architecture. These designers distorted perspective with stripes and arrows, emphasized wayfinding and movement sequences with surface designs, joined community groups to paint illustrative graphics over blighted buildings, and played with scale by using billboarding tactics.
Marlin Watson

Cypher 13

 

Supergraphics are those big arrows, numbers, or words painted on walls and seen throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though clearly a minor occurrence within the annals of architectural history during its time as a fad, it received some amount of critical attention. It was, for a time, presented as an answer (or at least a tool) to elevate to the aesthetic, social problems facing the man-made environment.
John McMorrough

Our own places, like our lives, are not bound up in one continuous space. Our order is not made in one discrete inside neatly separated from a hostile outside. We lead lives, more importantly, in discontinuous spaces. 
Charles Moore

Deborah Sussman

 

Grass, peyote, and LSD experiences were adapted to ‘psychedelic’ interior and graphics designs, resulting in nebulous wavy lines, ambiguous forms and textures, and flashing light schemes. University of Houston students called it ‘LSDesign’. 
C Ray Smith

The whole idea of Supergraphics is to knock down walls with paint … to change the apparent shape of rooms, bring order to rambling space, break up boxlike confines — all by applying outsized designs to floors, walls and ceilings … And if it doesn’t look right, you can just paint it out.
LIFE

Desescribir

 

Not a decorative-device – repeat – not a decorative-device, the Supermannerist’s use of bold stripes, geometric forms, and three-dimensional images is, emphatically, a spatial experimentation.
C. Ray Smith

The graphics grew out of the architectural forms and out of Mrs Stauffacher’s own vocabulary of signs; arrows lead into each side of the building, up the stairs; stripes progress around corners. The motifs make the rooms appear bigger and visually reinforce the beams, roof angles, and multiple levels that were lost when the rooms were all white.
C. Ray Smith

In this superworld, with its supercharged, super-intense and superwoman exuberance, I combined the super-sized enthusiasm of California Abstract Expressionism with hard-edge Swiss graphics, and ended up with, however superfluous and superficial, supergraphics.
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon

By 1970, this Supermannerist, Supergraphic movement had waned, or had morphed into Pop and possibly graffiti art, but the idea that the city could be made bright, even witty, through the judicious application of paint instead of new construction was born and became another tool for developers who had previously advocated demolition as a method of urban renewal.
Marlin Watson

Anna TaraTiel

 

Viva the façade as computer screen! Viva façades not reflecting light but emanating light – the building as a digital sparkling source of information, not as an abstract glowing source of light!
Robert Venturi

In this superworld, with its supercharged, super-intense and superwoman exuberance, I combined the super-sized enthusiasm of California Abstract Expressionism with hard-edge Swiss graphics, and ended up with, however superfluous and superficial, Supergraphics.’ 
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon 

Barbara Stauffacher Soloman

 

Some links to reviews and comments about the book Supergraphics – Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaces [Unit 02]:

http://imprint.printmag.com/daily-heller/su-sup-super-graphics/

http://supergrouplondon.co.uk/index.php/2010/09/10/supergraphics-by-unit-editions/

http://www.eyemagazine.com/review.php?id=185&rid=942&set=1016

http://typedesk.com/2010/11/25/supergraphics-from-unit-editions/

http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2011/february/barbara-stauffacher-solomon

 

For more, see Supergraphics – Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaces [Unit 02]

217 x 280mm, 320 pages, paperback
ISBN 978-0-9562071-1-1
Editors Tony Brook & Adrian Shaughnessy
Design Spin

Only available here and in restricted bookshops. 

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