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Ugo La Pietra

Photograph: Ugo La Pietra, MOMA, New york, 1972

Sketch on  paperboard: Nodi Urbani

Photograph: Audio-visual enviroment, 3rd Biennale S. Benedetto del Toronto, 1969

Photomontage: Il commutatore 1970

Metacrilato lavorato a freddo e a caldo (1971)

Ugo La Pietra (1938 -) is an Italian artist, architect, film-maker, and designer, who often defines himself as a "researcher in the visual arts." Pairing a sharp critique of modernist city planning with a playful and inventive impulse to experiment across multiple genres and formats, La Pietra became famous in the 1960s and 1970s for projects that often involved direct interventions in the urban landscape. His push for transgressive and playful gestures of liberation, immersion, and reappropriation had much in common with radical groups such as Archizoom and Superstudio, with whom he collaborated in projects such as Global Tools, an experimental workshop and alternative school for rebellious young architects, artists, and designers in the early 1970s.

Ugo La Pietra Papers

Ugo La Pietra's papers mainly consist of visual and artistic materials (photographs, photomontages, posters, collages, lithographs, sketches, notebooks, screenplay) from his most important works and exhibitions. It also includes correspondence with letters to and from other architects and artists such as Riccardo Dalisi, Gianni Pettena and Franco Vaccari.


The collection perfectly shows La Pietra's creative process from 1964 to 1984, following the different stages of his artistic career:

  • Strutturazioni Tissurali (1964-71)

During the XXXV Biennale di Venezia in 1970, Ugo La Pietra became very famous for his artistic objects made of acrylic glass. Among other documents, this section of the collection contains one of the masterpieces of La Pietra's work: the "Metacrilato lavorato a freddo e a caldo" (1971). This piece is a great example of his constant effort in researching new materials, new forms and applications.

  • Nodi Urbani (1965-1975)

La Pietra's collection contains many sketches, on paper and on paperboard, from the project "Nodi urbani". La Pietra discusses these drawings in his book Autoarchiterapia. The Beinecke holds number 25 of 500 autographed copies.

  • Emergenze Urbane (1966-1967)

The original designs, with a sketch and a photograph, of the model "Calotta ruotante".

  • Sistema Disequilibrante (1967-71)

La Pietra's famous theory, the De-balancing System, is attested by many photographs, posters and catalogs of the artist's works and installations along with many sketches of his famous project "Immersioni".

  • Casa Telematica MOMA New York (1971-1972)

This section contains photographs, collages and a photomontage/plan documenting the main projects (Il Ciceronelettronico, La cellula ebitativa, Il video comunicatore) of the exposition at MOMA in 1972.

  • Il commutatore (1970-1971)

"Il commutatore" was one of the most original and emblematic artistic objects of La Pietra's work. He considered it as a tool for understanding reality. The collection has a picture and some photomontages of the original project.

  • Gradi di Libertà (1969-1977)

 Levels of freedom started with Livio Marzot as a reconnaissance of Milan's suburbs. The artistic development of this project is shown by the great amount of photomontage, photographs and collages of "Recovery and Reinvention" and "Preferred itineraries" present in the Beinecke Collection.

  • L'informazione alternativa-Tubi di Parigi (1973)

The book "L'informazione di Parigi" with original pictures and other photographs.

  • Global Tools (1974-1975, 2013)

La Pietra’s collaboration with the alternative school of architecture and design is proved by photographs and documents concerning the creation and the first activities of "Global Tools".

  • Riconversione Progetturale (1977-2013)

In this project La Pitra redesigned urban fixtures, distorting their use and making them home tools. The Beinecke Collection testifies to the whole process of "Poles and Chains", from notebook, sketch, photographs, and photomontages to the final book.

  • Interno/Esterno (1977-1984)

One of the main goals of La Pietra's work is to make the public space private. The Interior/Exterior project is documented by photomontages, books, sketches and notebooks.

  • Films (1972-1977)

Beinecke owns the screenplay with the original montage of "Riappropriazione della città," with handmade notes and sketches. The Collection also includes some photographs, the poster and the book of "La grande occasione".


The collection also includes many catalogs by or about the artist.


Related collections




Ugo La Pietra


Ugo La Pietra was born in Bussi sul Tirino, Pescara, Italy, in 1938 and

he currently lives and works in Milan. He graduated from Politecnico in 1964.

Interested in music and painting - in particular in sign art - he founded, with  A. Ferrari, E. Sordini, A. Verga, A. Vermi, the "Gruppo del Cenobio" in 1962.

During his career, he tried to understand and re-define the relationship between the individual and the environment, by pushing the arts to their edges. Most of his work is an attempt to find a way to humanize spaces and cities in order to create better social conditions.

Between the 1960s and 1970s, he developed the concept of "synesthesia between the arts," and he was part of numerous artistic currents: sign art, conceptual art, environment art, social art , narrative art, art cinema, new writing,  extra-media, new-eclecticism, radical architecture and design. He also proposed urban interventions designed in collaboration with the artworks of many artists (such as Fontana and Azuma). On September 21, 1969, he participated in the “Campo Urbano (“Urban Field”) exhibition in Como - with  Enrico Baj, Gianni Colombo, Ugo Mulas, Bruno Munari and Gianni Pettena Dadamaino. There, he created an urban installation in order to make people aware of the impact of art.

In 1967, he began his research on the theory of the “de-balancing System” (“sistema disequilibrante”), which is an attempt to break with the logic of systems through aesthetic operations.

In 1973, he was the founding member of "Global Tools," a famous group of “Architects, Designers and Radical Artists”.

The constant quest for new forms of artistic expression led La Pietra to cinema. During the 70s, he became interested in "extra media." He realized several movies dedicated to the relationship between humans and the environment. In 1975, he won the first prize at the Nancy Architectural Film Festival.

He also has been either editor in chief or editor of many important magazines: In, Progettare, Inpiù, Brera, Flash, Fascicolo, Area, Abitare con Arte, Domus, D'ARS and AU.

He won several prizes among various disciplines: "Premio Termoli", "Premio Joan Mirò", "Premio Cesare da Sesto", "Premio Utopia", "Compasso d'oro" award in 1979. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Ugo La Pietra has produced countless exhibitions all over the world: Venice Biennale, Milan Triennale, Museum of Modern Art of New York, Centro Pompidou of Paris, Museum of Contemporary Craft of New York, at the Neue Galerie of Graz, Museé Departemental of Gap, Museum Für Angewandre Kunst in Cologne, Nordio Linz Museum, Royal College of Art in London and in many other famous cities and Museums.




Calotta ruotante. Sketch and photograph

Notebook: immersioni (20 sketches) 1967-1971

Photograph: La grande occasione (1972)

 Screenplay with the original montage of "La riappropiazione della città", 1977

Photomontage: Viaggio sul Reno (1974)

Photograph: Abitare è essere ovunque a casa propria

Ugo La Pietra and the De-balancing System

The point of departure and arrival of all La Pietra’s work is the idea of breaking rules and roles. All his art constitutes an attempt to terminate preexisting models and to free the power of creativity in all its manifestations without any barrier or bonds. This has led him to the creation of De-Balancing System.

La Pietra wanted to fight the System’s rigidity through aesthetic interventions. Initially he accomplished it in painting. He worked with points (static elements) and lines (dynamic elements) in order to create a “disturbing effect.” Such an effect is reached through the intrusion of a component that breaks the pattern, alters the structure, and renews the analogical connections perceived by the viewer.

Then he moved to design and artistic objects, continually looking for new materials and new forms. He incorporated technologies to provoke surprising reactions and he run the Audiovisual Session at the Milan Triennale (1979) and he created the “Telematic house” in 1982.

He has strived to realize new “models of comprehension” in order to understand and re-discover reality.  His macro-artistic installations meant to destabilize the rigid procedures of city planning interventions. His artistic objects became instruments to change the whole art’s world.

Breaking the system also meant fighting against the division of disciplines. Ugo La Pietra strongly believes in the importance of connections between science and arts. He always starts with an idea and endeavors to represent it through all possible media: art, painting, design, and movies. 

La Pietra includes in his works a series of ideas, which he has absorbed from some of the Situationist International’s writings, and in doing so he has become one of the most important Italian Radical architects.

Photomontage: "Poles and Chains"

Notebook: sketches of "Poles and Chains"

    Video resources

"La riappropriazione della citta" (Film, 1977)

Ugo La Pietra's interview

Ugo La Pietra's atelier

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