Academy of Architecture at a glance
Tour del Campus di Mendrisio
The Academy of Architecture offers an innovative, interdisciplinary, humanist and generalist educational and teaching model, suitable for our times. This has enabled the school to make a name for itself and play a leading role in the international panorama of architecture schools. The Academy is one of the five faculties of the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and is based in Mendrisio.
Direct learning through practical work in the design studios under the tutelage of authoritative internationally renowned architects is accompanied by a rich offering of courses in history and the humanities, where the teaching is devoted to the history of architecture and art, philosophy, sociology and technical-scientific courses open to contemporary issues and advanced courses in the representation of the project. Together with a training in architecture, a course of study in the history and theory of art and architecture completes the school’s offerings, giving further depth to its humanist vocation and cultural dimension.
The educational offering of the school is part of a broader mission, which includes scientific research, in the historical-artistic field as well as the architectural-urbanistic, and cultural activities, which range from a rich programme of conferences and publications to exhibitions and other events in the Theatre of Architecture.
Welcome to the Academy
The Academy of Architecture of the Università della Svizzera italiana is a faculty where a new interdisciplinary sensibility is taught in the field of architecture, urban studies, landscape design and the history of art and architecture. At the same time what it teaches also seeks to address and significantly influence the architecture of the future. With over 800 students enrolled and teachers of 40 different nationalities, the Academy has become a unique and particularly interesting centre of cultural exchange, where dialogue continues to be renewed on topics related to the transmission of knowledge across the whole field and therefore of the cultural strands that influence education in architecture.
The success of the Swiss educational model in architecture is due to an original general context, in which the Academy in Mendrisio offers an established frame of reference, a school of indisputable excellence that has long boasted close ties with various institutions of national and international excellence.
If one of the primary objectives of architecture is still to place humanity at the centre of the practice of design, today even more than in the past, the path of training of the “new architect” has to deal with the question of the resources available and their most intelligent and fully insightful use. The concept of quality, bound up with a new way of understanding the sustainable approach to architectural design, is becoming predominant today in relation to the reuse of the existing built and architectural heritage, which will increasingly be the subject of architects’ work. An epicentre of different interests, nationalities and cultures, the Academy of Mendrisio, by its nature and dimensions, offers an effective model, unique of its kind, for the transmission of architectural culture, which guarantees its students excellent educational methods, recognising that the practice of architecture has a critical and foundational role with respect to the spatial and social demands of the environment that they will have to deal with at various times. Today more than ever, when we are again haunted by the spectres of useless and degrading world wars, we need to affirm the dignity of the role of architecture and therefore of architects in society, for their ability to secure a better living environment for the community.
For this reason it is essential to be prepared: a balanced combination of design with the teaching of the humanities and technical-scientific subjects is ensured at the Academy through a dialectical articulation between the practical design work, conducted in the numerous studio sessions, and teaching in the lecture courses.
The academic path is articulated as three main phases: the three-year BSc course, the completion of nine months of practical training and the two-year MSc course, which includes the Diploma work. The Diploma Semester has a monographic character, focused entirely on a specific urban reality – this year, in particular, it is the metropolitan area of Milan – which has the character of a semester of research into the design of contemporaneity.
Parallel to the Master in Architecture, to overcome the growing marginalisation of architecture in historical-artistic studies, a Master in History and Theory of Art and Architecture (MSTAA) has been active for some years. It includes both the study of the history of architecture and the history of art in the various historical periods, and a series of insights into artistic and cultural expressions such as photography, cinema, theatre and literature.
The activities of the Academy’s research institutes form part of this framework. The Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture (ISA) has among its objectives a better understanding of the complex meanings of artistic and architectural action, favouring the integration of historical and theoretical culture into the teaching and design debate at the Academy. The research conducted by the Institute of Urban and Landscape Studies (ISUP) promotes multidisciplinary studies of urban, spatial and landscape design, with reference to the international disciplinary debate and with a particular concern for environmental issues and criteria of sustainability. The ISUP also coordinates the activities of the various laboratories on the Mendrisio Campus, which deal in particular with research into the Ticino area, its history, current developments and new planning strategies: the Observatory of Territorial Development (OST) and the Laboratory of the History of the Alps (LabiSAlp).
The Mendrisio campus also comprises the Academy’s prestigious Library, one of the largest libraries of art and architecture history in Switzerland, occupying its new premises in Palazzo Turconi. Its extraordinary general collection, fonds and vast collection of journals covering architecture, art, design, photography, restoration, urban and territorial planning and landscape design are always available to students and researchers. A unique place for the preservation of the architectural and artistic culture of the past and present, in particular of Ticino, Switzerland and southern Europe.
Biologist, former docent and visiting lecturer at the Academy of Architecture
The architect is the prototype of everything that works in ways contrary to nature. Instead of ensuring that today is simply the result of yesterday, he ensures that today is the result of what he designs for tomorrow.
Public lectures, exhibitions and encounters held at the Theatre of Architecture on the Mendrisio campus complete the educational and cultural offering of our school. Its many activities this year include the cycle of public lectures entitled A Case for the Urban, curated together with the ISUP and devoted to the relationship between architecture’s social function, the city and its possible forms of development, with the participation of scholars and designers from Barcelona, Brussels, Paris and Zurich. In the second semester a cycle of lectures will enable us to learn more about the design research of a series of contemporary architects.
In October 2022 the exhibition activities at the Mendrisio Theatre of Architecture will open with the exhibition The Territory as Palimpsest: The Legacy of André Corboz, devoted to the complex corpus of works by the Genevan art historian and urbanist, whose collection of books and documents is held by the Library of the Academy. This will be followed in November by the exhibition MAD.09, wholly devoted to recent teaching work at the school. In February 2023, after the winter break, the exhibition cycle will resume with an exhibition featuring the work of three international photographers, whose research into the relation between space and image is a source of inspiration for architects and landscape designers.
All this, together with the publishing activities of the Mendrisio Academy Press and the services of the Archivio del Moderno, again shows that the campus of the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture continues to be a pole of excellence for cultural education.
The Plan of Study 2022-2023 confirms the structure and, updating it, completes the educational content of the academic years that preceded it. It presents an extensive and diversified offering, enriched by relations with other national and international schools through the SEMP mobility programme.
After the years troubled by the effects of the pandemic, the Academy is resuming its all activities face to face, with greater awareness and with a new sense of purpose, continuing to ensure the successes that have rewarded the educational approach at our school in recent decades.
Our sincere wish is for all the students, teachers, researchers, assistants and all our staff at the Academy to work together serenely, with renewed trust and a sense of fulfilment.
Studying at the Academy
The Academy of Architecture offers a complete course divided into a BSc, providing a basic three-year training completed by a one-year internship, and an MSc, a two-year specialist course. The concrete work of making architecture is at the centre of the teaching, with a syllabus focused on design. The future architects will face the challenges of real contexts guided by internationally renowned architects, and as a result of the technical-scientific and historical-humanist courses, they will acquire critical skills ranging from architectural design to urban and landscape design, from the reuse of the existing heritage to sustainable construction.
History and theory of art and architecture
Alongside a training in architecture, the Academy offers an MSc in History and Theory of Art and Architecture. Studying the history of art and, in particular, the history of architecture in the context of an architecture faculty is the ideal choice to counter the growing marginalisation of architecture in historical-artistic studies, so restoring the discipline to the centre of critical reflection in the academic context and more generally the public debate.
The course of study that can be undertaken at the Academy includes the third cycle, namely PhD studies leading to the award of a single degree of Doctor of Architecture (Dr Arch), Doctor of the Technical Sciences (Dr Sc Tec), or Doctor of Philosophy (Dr Phil).
The Academy in three keywords
Philosopher, former docent and visiting Lecturer at the Academy of Architecture
The project foresees, so to speak, a future presence, it presents its outlines in advance. But in the project, in fact, we do not limit ourselves to ’designing’ this presence. We also show by what means and what ways it is actually attainable. Hence the emphasis of the project is that of anticipation, prediction and concrete production.
The Academy of Architecture is an international school. Here the teachers hail from the different language areas of Switzerland, as well as Italy, Spain and Portugal, Britain, France, Holland, India, Japan, Ireland... chosen from among the world’s finest. The students also come from a score of European and non-European countries.
The international makeup of the Mendrisio Academy is particularly valuable in today’s globalized world, where communicating creates a common ground.
At the Academy of Architecture, relations between students and teachers are close and direct, above all in the design courses. The small studios, open 24 hours a day, have no more than 25 students, taught by a professor and two assistants. Architectural design is central to the education at the Academy, accounting for half the total teaching commitment.
Students are always encouraged to express their ideas. The project reviews are open to all, like the examinations at the end of the semester and the final Diploma work.
At the Academy of Architecture, study follows an interdisciplinary educational model. Learning through practical and creative design work is backed by courses in history and the humanities. Our goal is to train ‘humanist’ and ‘generalist’ architects, capable of coping with the complex needs of today’s design world with skill, flexibility and critical vision.
Lectures, encounters, exhibitions and publications are valued opportunities for deeper insights that the school offers students. Field trips are held every semester to explore works built in the places for which they were designed.