The history of the cover of Domus 763, Alan Fletcher’s Technological Cemetery

Many memorable covers have resulted from the collaboration between Domus and the great British graphic designer. However, as Giuseppe Basile recalls – Domus’ art director for more than thirty years – one in particular is absolutely astonishing. 

Alan Fletcher was a Domus design consultant for several years, and he was naturally asked to design the covers during his collaboration with the magazine. 

At first, however, Alan did not think it was a good idea to be the author of all the covers. “Readers who do not like my graphics will dislike the covers, it is better to have several designers working on them from time to time”, he said. At that time, it was decided not to make covers related to the monthly issue’s articles, but to tell the story of the topics and fields of research Domus was involved in. Therefore, in order to give continuity and clear readability to this story, it needed to be interpreted by a single designer. And that convinced Fletcher.

Alan Fletcher explored all graphic communication techniques, drawing, photography, typography and forms very close to art such as collage. His calligraphic works, masterfully executed with both paint and brush and elaborate nibs and ink, were outstanding. In short, he tested his artistic ability and creative resources so as not to fall into repetition, which could, as he claimed, not satisfy all the readers who have always followed Domus.

Domus 763 September 1994
Domus cover 763 September 1994

This sort of surprise effect was also keenly felt by the editorial staff. Every month, we anxiously awaited the elegant but sober envelope containing his new artwork. Many of his covers were memorable, but there is one in particular I would like to mention here, the one dedicated to technology, which arrived at the editorial office in July 1994.

For years I had seen Alan Fletcher picking up old, worn-out pencils from tables, desks and the most diverse places, and then politely asking to keep them, I thought it was a habit until then.

When I opened the English envelope, I was struck by an immediately familiar image: a 100cm x 70cm frame, containing hundreds of worn-out pencils skilfully assembled to completely fill the space, creating a wonderful visual and chromatic effect. What this cover also brought with it was a very poetic sense of sweetness and inner affection. Objects that had been part of so many ideas, projects, notes and had accompanied the personal and professional lives of so many people, were now resting (some of them exhausted) all together in colourful joy.

Alan Fletcher. Photo © Primoz Korosec
Portrait of Alan Fletcher. Photo © Primoz Korosec. Courtesy Alan Fletcher Archive

“This is my technological cemetery,” he wrote in an attached letter, and added, “I struggled to finish this work because the pencils have disappeared from the tables, everyone is using keyboards. Please use a detail of this overall picture (he precisely specified which one in his artwork, Ed.) for the September cover”. It was the wonderful work of a person who brightened our lives with his projects and extraordinary sense of humour.

Opening image: Alan Fletcher, Technological Graveyard, September 1994. Courtesy Alan Fletcher Archive

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