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An Argentinian in Ulm: Tomás Maldonado 1922-2018

On the anniversary of his 100th birthday, the HfG-Archiv and the Stiftung Hochschule für Gestaltung HfG Ulm commemorate the great theorist and designer.

On 25 April 1922, 100 years ago, Tomás Maldonado was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. With his work at the Ulm School of Design (HfG) and the essays and lectures he wrote at the time, Tomás Maldonado made a significant contribution to the HfG leaving the Bauhaus behind as a role model and actively contributing to the formation of the professional image of the modern industrial designer.

Between 1958 and 1968, the HfG, supported by the Geschwister-Scholl-Stiftung (today Stiftung Hochschule für Gestaltung HfG Ulm), published 21 issues of the university’s own magazine “ulm”. It served as a chronicle, to present the results of teaching and research and stimulated debates on various topics. The theoretical texts by Tomás Maldonado published in it are still important reading today. This is one of the reasons why the HfG Ulm is considered one of the sources for design theory in the second half of the 20th century.

His former collaborator at the HfG Ulm, Gui Bonsiepe, characterised in Tomás Maldonado’s thinking a “preference for pensiero discorrente (contrary thinking), an aversion to monocausal explanations, a distrust of dematerialisation tendencies, a critique of technological-political naivety, [… ] an insistence on verifiability, a militant rationality, a preference for lucidité (and thus an aversion to romantic fuzziness), a sense of historical context, a willingness to transcend disciplinary boundaries […]”

Trained as a painter at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Tomás Maldonado already published theoretical writings at the beginning of his career, including in the journal “nueva vision”, which he edited.The HfG Ulm had been founded in 1953 by Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill as a successor institution to the Bauhaus. It was because of Max Bill that Tomás Maldonado came to Europe; he met the Aicher-Scholl couple in their Zurich home; he came to Ulm at Max Bill’s invitation.

In Ulm since 1954, he was a lecturer at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG) from 1955 to 1967. From 1955 to 1960 he was chairman of the rector’s council, from 1962 to 1964 prorector, and from 1964 to 1966 rector. From 1961 to 1966 he also headed Development Group 6 (e6) at the Hochschule für Gestaltung. The concept of “sustainability” has been on everyone’s lips since the beginning of the 21st century at the latest, but it was already being discussed at the HfG Ulm in the 1960s. Tomás Maldonado continued to explore these questions after leaving Ulm (1967) and published his reflections in “Umwelt und Revolte: Zur Dialektik des Entwerfens im Spätkapitalismus” (German, 1972).

Little known in the Federal Republic of Germany, Tomás Maldonado received many awards and is still highly respected, especially in Italy and South America, for his writings and his many years of academic activity. He died in Milan in 2018, at the age of 96.

A two-volume selection of his writings was published in German in 2007, edited by Gui Bonsiepe.

: Anniversary Lecture

Sat I 26 November 2022 I 7 pm

With Prof. Dr. Dagmar Rinker

Small lecture hall of the former HfG Ulm

In collaboration with the Stiftung Hochschule für Gestaltung HfG Ulm.


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