Cattedra Borromini

With the establishment of the Cattedra Borromini, an annual high-level teaching post in the field of the humanities, assigned every two years, the University of Italian Switzerland, the Academy of Architecture and its Institute of History and Theory of Art and Architecture seek to emphasise their commitment to the human sciences, understood in the fullest sense, and support for the integrating role that they have always played in artistic and architectural creation. The Cattedra Borromini usually schedules two cycles of university lectures at the MSc level and a series of public lectures on a specific topic, the Borromini Lectures.

Cattedra Borromini 2018-19 - Barry Bergdoll

Accademia di architettura Mendrisio, Cattedra Borromini, Barry Bergdoll

Immovable paradoxes: architecture on display since 1750
As the institution and the practices of the modern museum and art gallery evolved from the mid-18th century, slowly a culture of exhibiting architecture also developed.  As is well known from the first architecture differed from the other arts in that to exhibit it was to work with representations, either of an existing building or of a future one.  Paintings and sculptures often might be moved from place to place in many cases, and rapidly the practices of the fine arts developed in symbiosis with the rising culture of the museum.  But architecture was less obviously adept to new cultures, institutions and practices of display.  Yet, paradoxically, once architects found their way onto the walls of the Salon in Paris, the Royal Academy in London, and other places of artistic display, sociability, and criticism, a culture of architectural exhibition took hold.   A series of four lectures will look at key aspects of this new practice in four different initiatory moments, and in four different settings, each creating a new possibility for architecture.  Common to all practices is the idea, frequently, of the display away from the actual site of construction in a new context which adds meaning, tensions, and possibilities for architecture

Barry Bergdoll

Barry Bergdoll is the Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Architectural History at Columbia University and Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, where from 2007-2013 he served as The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design. At MoMA he has organized, curated, and consulted on several major exhibitions of 19th and 20th-century architecture, including “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” (2017),  “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980” (2015) and “Henri Labrouste: Structure Brought to Light” (2013). He is author or editor of numerous publications, including Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 (with Carlos Eduardo Comas, Jorge Francisco Liernur, and Patricio del Real; 2015); Henri Labrouste: Structure Brought to Light (with Corinne Bélier and Marc Le Coeur, 2012); Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity (with Leah Dickerman, 2010); Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (2008); Mies in Berlin (2001); Karl Friedrich Schinkel: An Architecture for Prussia (1994); Léon Vaudoyer: Historicism in the Age of Industry (1994); and European Architecture 1750-1890, in the Oxford History of Art series (2001). He served as President of the Society of Architectural Historians from 2006-2008, Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University in winter 2011, and in 2013 delivered the 62nd A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.  

Cattedra Borromini 2016-17 - Jean-Louis Cohen

Accademia di architettura Mendrisio, Cattedra Borromini, Jean-Louis Cohen

The governance of space Architecture as a political vector 
Too often the relation between architecture and politics has been reduced to the direct link between rulers – especially dictators, when it comes to the 20th century – and designers. However, the space in which architecture, understood both as culture and as a profession, interacts with politics is neither isotropic nor homogeneous. Rather, it is modelled on the “microphysics of power”, to quote Michel Foucault, who saw political domination as operating through unstable networks of actions. Among these networks, urban form and architecture are undoubtedly subject to pressures from above, but they are also determined by the forces operating on the market and the expectations of conflicting social groups.
While with its monumental constructions it acts as a means of representation, architecture shapes everyday relations in all strata of the social fabric. The delicate balance between the repertoire of available forms and the expectations of the different components of society determines the fabric in which both architectural discourse and practice are inserted.
A wide range of projects and buildings embodying these themes – from North America to Japan, through Western and Eastern Europe and North Africa – will provide the empirical basis for the public lectures of the Borromini Chair.

Jean-Louis Cohen

With his extensive field of competence as historian and architect, since 1994 Jean-Louis Cohen has held the Sheldon H. Solow Chair for the History of Architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. Since 2014 he has been a visiting professor at the Collège de France.
Notable among the forty books he has published are: Architecture in Uniform (2011), The Future of Architecture. Since 1889 (2012) and Le Corbusier: an Atlas of Modern Landscapes (2013).
He has curated numerous exhibitions, including: L'aventure Le Corbusier (1987, on the occasion of the centenary of the architect's birth), at the Centre Georges Pompidou, with Bruno Reichlin; Scenes of the World to Come, at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1995); Interférences / Interferenzen – Architecture, Allemagne, France, at the Musées de Strasbourg (2013); Le Corbusier: an Atlas of Modern Landscapes, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2007); Architecture in Uniform, at the CCA, at the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine and at the MAXXI in Rome (2011-2014).
He has been a research fellow at the National Gallery of Art's Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (1987), Getty scholar at the Getty Research Institute (1992-93) and Guggenheim fellow in 2013. He curated the French pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014, receiving a special mention from the jury.


Cattedra Borromini 2014/15 – Salvatore Settis


Theatre of Democracy.The landscape in Europe between “beauty”, “environment” and civil rights
Who is responsible for defining, cherishing and regulating the landscape? Architects, historians, jurists, sociologists, politicians, or citizens? The course seeks to move beyond the limits of the discipline to design a panorama of conceptions, problems, cultural, political and civil tensions that characterise discussion on the nature and the destiny of the landscape in Europe. Devoted to the historical experience of Italian-speaking cultures from the Middle Ages to the present, the course will present a comparative approach with other European cultures. The “landscape” is the balance between nature and culture, between beaches, mountains, hills and plains as they once were and as they are today, populated by cities, villages and farms. Each landscape has its own history: made up of creativity and destruction (wars, earthquakes, barbarism), of wonders and errors. This diversity reflects what we are (as the face of each is “the mirror of the soul”): therefore each has the landscape he deserves. Well before its current political form, Italy was the “garden of Europe”, where “architecture is a second nature, addressed to civil purposes” (Goethe). It was the first country in the world to have placed the protection of the landscape among the fundamental principles of the state (Constitution, art. 9). To what extent are these values ​​reflected also in the historical, juridical, historical-artistic tradition of the other European countries? To what extent are the different national cultures concerned about the landscape that we will leave to future generations? Is it possible to imagine a common European vision in this delicate and crucial area?

Salvatore Settis

Salvatore Settis (Rosarno, 1941) is art historian, antiquarian, archaeologist and philologist of international fame, as well as an intellectual constantly engaged in important institutional roles and a key figure in the public debate on cultural policies. He has directed the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (1994-99) and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa (1999-2010). He was president of the Superior Council of the Cultural Heritage of the Italian Republic (2007-2009) and one of the founding members of the European Research Council (2005-2011). In addition to being visiting professor at various European and American universities, he was Warburg Professor at the University of Hamburg, he gave the Isaiah Berlin Lectures in Oxford and the Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery in Washington, and held the Cátedra Museo del Prado in Madrid. Since 2010 he has been president of the Scientific Council of the Louvre. Settis's research interests include topics in ancient and post-ancient history of art as well as cultural orientation and politics, and for a decade he has shifted his conceptual centre of interest even further towards the complex relation between artistic cultures and systems of civilisation. He has published numerous essays, notable among them, in relation to the subject of the present cycle of lectures, are:  Italia S.p.A. - L’assalto al patrimonio culturale, Einaudi, Turin 2002; Futuro del “classico” (Eng. title: The Future of the Classical), Einaudi, Turin 2004; Battaglie senza eroi. I beni culturali fra istituzioni e profitto, Mondadori Electa, Milan 2005; Paesaggio Costituzione cemento. La battaglia per l’ambiente contro il degrado civile, Einaudi, Turin 2010; Azione popolare. Cittadini per il bene comune, Einaudi, Turin, 2012; Se Venezia muore (Eng. title: If Venice Dies), Einaudi, Turin 2014.
He is a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, of the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Academies of France, Berlin, Bavaria and Belgium.


Cattedra Borromini 2012/13 – Giorgio Agamben


The Work of Man
The archaeology of politics

The objective of the two MSc courses – The Work of Man and the Archaeology of Command – and of the cycle of public lectures is to lay the foundations for the archaeology of a concept, that of the “work”, which has been of decisive importance in the politics, aesthetics, ethics and economy of the West and yet has remained singularly unexamined. If we read in this light the ancient and modern authors in whom the concept of “work” (not only in the sense of “artwork”, but in the broader one that concerns all “making” and the “work“ of man) emerges in its problematic implications, but we will also try to ask ourselves whether man is not, by contrast, the animal without a work, a being of possibility and power which no vocation and no specific activity can exhaust. Philosophers and historians have also reflected on the problem of obedience, on why humans obey, but a systematic reflection on command is lacking in our culture. The course will question the problem of the command starting with its linguistic form: the imperative. What do we do when we say: walk!, speak!, obey!? The hypothesis that guides our analysis is that Western culture, which is believed to be based on knowledge and the function of the truth value of utterances, has at its centre a sphere absolutely indifferent to the truth (a command cannot be either true or false), which, bypassing the boundaries of its own sphere (religion, law and magic), performs a function that is all the more decisive and intrusive the more hidden and elusive it is.

Giorgio Agamben

Giorgio Agamben graduated in 1965 from the University of Rome with a thesis on the political thought of Simone Weil. In the sixties he frequented Elsa Morante, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ingeborg Bachmann and participated in the seminars held by Martin Heidegger at Le Thor. In the seventies he taught at the University of Haute-Bretagne, studied linguistics and medieval culture, formed friendships with Pierre Klossowski and Italo Calvino and conducted research at the library of the Warburg Institute in London. Since 1978, for Einaudi, he has directed the Italian edition of the complete Works of Walter Benjamin, by whom he has discovered important manuscripts. From 1986 to 1993, he was Directeur de Programme at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. He has been associate professor of Aesthetics at the University of Macerata and the University of Verona and until 2009 he was full professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design of the IUAV in Venice. Starting in the Nineties, through a rereading of Aristotle’s Politics and the thought of Michel Foucault and Carl Schmitt, he has developed a theory of the relation between law and life and a critique of the concept of sovereignty that have marked a new direction in contemporary political thought (Homo sacer I. Homo sacer I. Il potere sovrano e la nuova vita (Eng: title: Sovereign Power and Bare Life), Einaudi, Turin 1995, followed by Homo sacer II, Stato di eccezione (Eng. title State of Exception), Bollati Boringhieri, Turin 2003). He has been visiting professor at the Universities of Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton and Los Angeles. Appointed Distinguished Professor at New York University in 2003, he abandoned his position in protest against US government policy. He is an honorary professor of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), of Buenos Aires, of Rio de la Plata and Albertus Magnus Professor at the University of Cologne.
With his teaching in the academic year 2012-2013 he inaugurates the new Borromini Chair at the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio.