This article argues for a necessary reinterpretation of 1970s Italian design, employing new analytical categories. In this case, the history of the impact of left-wing theory and politics, the reception of American counterculture movements and environmentalism, and the rhetorical strategies used to mediate an ecological awareness and collective consciousness in Italy, provide new insight into the cultural background of radical design.

This essay considers a short period (1970–1976) in which the theories and initiatives of the Italian environmental movement intersected with those of design cultures. Editorial projects developed between 1970 and 1973 testify to the first steps towards ecological literacy in Italy. Se, an insert in Abitare exemplifies this approach. On the other hand, a pre-ecological reflection was promoted by radical design cultures. In 1970, Casabella, the most widely-read Italian architectural magazine, participated in a series of initiatives highlighting the speculative merits of participatory and socially impactful design. The pedagogical experiment proposed by the Italian avant-garde through the Global Tools collective between 1973 and 1975 documents the aspirations of a utopic narrative of sustainability, seeking a visionary answer through the retooling of design as a discipline.

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