Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, a Florentine architect known for founding the Radical design movement collective, Superstudio, died on Tuesday. Di Francia was 78 years old.

Di Francia studied architecture at the University of Florence, founding Superstudio with his friend and classmate Adolfo Natalini in 1966, two years before he graduated in 1968. The group—eventually also led by G. Piero Frassinelli, Alessandro and Roberto Magris, and Alessandro Poli—garnered initial attention for its 1996 "Superarchitettura" exhibition. Through this and other work, di Francia and his collaborators resisted the rational practicality of Modernist architecture, creating elaborate sketches for conceptual projects that pushed the boundaries of conventional design. This “anti-architecture” and philosophical approach sparked discussions in the architecture community about theoretical approaches to design and remains a cornerstone movement in the history of architecture. During the collective’s 12-year history, its proposals were published in Domus and Architectural Design magazines and exhibited in venues such as the Venice Biennale (1978, 1996, 2014), the Museum of Modern Art (1972, 2002), and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (1976).

Superstudio, New-New
York, 1969. © Superstudio. From the Collection of the Alvin Boyarsky
Superstudio, New-New York, 1969. © Superstudio. From the Collection of the Alvin Boyarsky Archive.

When Superstudio dissolved in 1978, di Francia continued his work independently, first with Italian architect Andrea Noferi in 1994 and then in 1999 with Italian architect Lorena Luccioni, who later became de Francia's wife. Di Francia completed several projects after the end of Superstudio, such as the San Paolo di Torino Banking Institute in Prato, Italy; the Liverno waterfront in Liverno, Italy; and the controversial La Pensilina di Santa Maria Novella bus and taxi terminal in Florence, which was demolished in 2010 when Matteo Renzi served as the city's mayor. Di Francia taught and lectured in several cities around the world, eventually joining the University of Camerino (Unicam) in Ascolio Piceno, Italy, in 1992 as an associate professor of architectural design and founding member of the institution’s architecture faculty.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the university community expressed its sorrow from the loss and offered its condolences to di Francia’s family.

“Unicam recalls the competence, preparation, passion for research and teaching that have always marked its figure of university professor, together with an extraordinary humanity and proximity to the dreams and aspirations of students, for which it has always been point of Unique and irreplaceable reference.”

Many members of the architecture community have taken to Twitter to mourn di Franscia's passing: