Enzo Mari: Autoprogettazione

Enzo Mari: Autoprogettazione

A project for making easy-to-assemble furniture using rough boards and nails. An
elementary technique to teach anyone to look at present production with a critical
eye. (Anyone, apart from factories and traders, can use these designs to make them
by themselves. The author hopes the idea will last into the future and asks those who
build the furniture, and in particular, variations of it, to send photos to his studio at 10
piazzale Baracca, 10-20123 Milan).

In 1974, Enzo Mari wrote a book of instructions to create furniture out of nails and rough
wooden boards. This collection included many designs needed to furnish an ordinary home,
from chairs to bed frames to cupboards, and included a drafting table. Though interpreted by
many as a primitive-style DIY handbook, Mari created Autoprogettazione? as an educational
project. He didn’t believe that all people should make their own furniture, but he did believe
all people would develop a better understanding of design and production by building
something sturdy with their own hands. This first-hand experience of production would
protect ordinary people from being swayed by the sheen of design formalism and
meaningless luxury.
The furniture pieces were designed from the perspective of carpentry rather than cabinetry.
Cabinetry is concerned with the precise preparation, detailing, fit, and finish of wood and
requires an experienced craftsmen and long production times. Carpentry, on the other hand,
is a craft of improvisation: making things work with standardized, economical. and often
less-than-perfect materials. Mari chose this because it was open to all, and didn’t require
much prior knowledge.

There is an example of technical culture theoretically open to everyone even though it
is used only by manual workers. The technique of the carpenter, and not, I want to
stress, that of the cabinet maker; it is reduced to the minimum and in fact is never
taught. It involves frames, wooden boards, or whatever, based on very simple
principles which in actual fact lie behind the basic elements of engineering and
architecture. The beam and the pilaster. The joining of the beam to the pilaster takes
place using nails and because nailing is a kind of joint that does not guarantee
steadiness, it is necessary to strengthen the joint using a nailed diagonal element.
What emerges is a construction based on the triangle, which again is one of the
fundaments of engineering: the triangle cannot be deformed.

We begin our course with Enzo Mari, with a foundation in construction, form, critique, and
iteration. Assignment 1 is divided into 2 parts. You will start by constructing one of Enzo Mari’s
designs, and proceed to use the techniques you’ve learned to draw, model, build and
critique your own piece of furniture