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Superurbeffimero n. 7: Umberto Eco’s Semiologia and the Architectural Rituals of the U.F.O.

Abstract

On 24 June 1968 the city of San Giovanni Valdarno opened its sixth “Premio di Pittura Masaccio” with a performance by eight students, grouped under the English acronym U.F.O. Titled Superurbeffimero n. 7, it was the last of the Urboeffemeri, a series of Happenings performed regularly in Florence since that February. The date of the opening  coincided with the religious procession for the city’s Patron, and the Happening escalated into a public riot and an inquiry by the magistratura on suspicions of blasphemy.

Superurbeffimero n. 7 is a little studied collaboration between Umberto Eco and his students during his tenure at the Florentine Faculty of Architecture between 1966 and 1969. The counter-reactions in San Giovanni Valdarno, the tacit disappearance of Superurbeffimero n. 7 into a general pool of “youth protest,” and, Eco’s withdrawk from the field of architecture shorly afterward indicate the difficulty of penetrating the logic of that contested work. My paper exposes Eco’s semiologic text, published then as a course reader, as the programmatic manifesto of U.F.O.’s Urboeffemeri. U.F.O.’s appropriation of spiritual and popular symbols for their “sociourban architectural ritual,” is recast as a conscious attempt to test out Eco’s lessons in Florence. In turn, it delineates the Florentine experimentalism of the 1960s and highlights the development of Eco’s semiologia.

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