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 is seeking to renew its generous Plan of Studies developed in over two decades of activity, and which has distinguished it both nationally and internationally by the marked attention it devotes to the humanities. Today, in addition to the work of the design studios, the educational itinerary offered by the Academy comprises two major disciplinary fields: historical-humanistic and technical-scientific. Over time, the historical-humanistic field, including the History and Theory of Art and Architecture, has comprised the teaching of Culture of the Territory, while in the technical-scientific field, the courses on Construction and Technology have been extended with others in Structures and the Exact Sciences. The innovation now contemplated does not envisage changes to the subjects, but seeks to strengthen and more clearly characterise the educational offering that the Academy has developed in these years.
The Faculty is also working on the proposal of “strands” to guide the students in the choice of facultative or optional courses in keeping with their personalised range of interests. In this respect, we are also working on a new instrument to graphically display our renewed educational offering.
Basically nothing will change in this academic year. Still, I am particularly concerned that, in this Study Plan, the students should grasp the value accorded to the humanities, the technical-scientific subjects, those related to the city and the landscape, and also to what we will term “metalanguages”: art, theatre, scenography, analogical and digital design. It is the present writer’s hope that the students, by threading their way through the numbers and times to be respected, will prove capable of devising and designing their own Study Plans. In future semesters we would like to perfect this system, making it more flexible and bringing it even closer to the interests of each.
This school, by the way it is structured, already contains everything. The architects we imagine will be able to work in their own world with the intelligence and the necessary resources in authoritative and critical ways. And in this respect, I would like to remind our students of the very important cultural activities organised on the Mendrisio Campus (which, though they may not produce credits, are equally valuable in our educational project). They range from the Library, with its precious books and collections, to the Archivio del Moderno and finally the lectures, exhibitions and encounters at the Theatre of Architecture, an amazing facility, perhaps unique in the panorama of European schools of architecture.
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.
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.