History and theory of art and architecture: significant grants for the Academy

Gottfried Semper, „Der Stil“ 1859 (gta Archiv, ETH Zürich; Photo: Sonja Hildebrand)
Gottfried Semper, „Der Stil“ 1859 (gta Archiv, ETH Zürich; Photo: Sonja Hildebrand)

Institutional Communication Service

12 January 2017

The USI Institute of History and Theory of Art and Architecture (ISA) is increasingly becoming a national and international renowned research centre. In recent months, the Swiss National Science Foundation has awarded ISA several important research grants, which will bring over two million Swiss francs to our University in the coming years.

First, the Institute has been awarded for the underlying approach on which it was conceived: as a reflection not only on the social and physical context of the built environment, but also on the philosophical, political and material point of view in which the artwork is conceived.

This interdisciplinary approach defines the project coordinated by ISA professors Sonja Hildebrand and Philip Ursprung of ETH Zurich, a project that aims at releasing a critique of the theoretical master work by Gottfried Semper “The style” (1860/63). Thanks to the in depth analysis of all relevant manuscripts, of all documents previous to the publishing of the work, and of all different published versions, the edition will, for the first time, show the entire text and visuals of the work that is considered the key to the theory of architecture. Semper is one of the most significant architects of the 19th Century, known for the vastness of his reflection, which is able to defy the boundaries of art and architecture, ranging from history of culture and language, to evolutionary biology, to anthropology. The four-year project is funded until 2021 for a total of 1.147.000 CHF.

Prof. Daniela Mondini, was also granted further funding of 843.000 CHF for the 3-year period 2018-2020, for the fifth of six volumes of Corpus Cosmatorum, a collection of about 120 Medieval churches of Rome. Her research group works in close collaboration with Carola Jäggi, Professor of Medieval Art History at the University of Zurich. The majority of Roman Medieval churches, such as San Peter in Vatican, had to give way to new Renaissance and Baroque buildings or lost its original liturgical furnishing. The project aims at studying the surviving fragments, as well as the textual and visual sources, to reconstruct a rich and varied picture of this peculiar and almost unknown period of Roman art.

As part of a D-A-CH project, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Swiss National Science Fundation granted a bilateral funding for a total of 566.855 CHF to a 2-year research project carried out by USI professor Christoph Frank, by the Staatliche Kunsthalle of Karlsruhe, and by the Academy of Art and Design of Stuttgart. The project aims at deepening the study of unknown drawings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), that were recently discovered at the Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe. The discovery was followed by Prof. Frank since the beginning and comprises of two albums for a total of 297 drawings from the artist’s Roman period. The discovery is considered by all scholars of Piranesi an of the 18th Century artistic culture, an unprecedented event, given the relatively few drawings known by the artist. Currently the researchers, supported by Ph.D students at USI Academy of Architecture, are working jointly and in an interdisciplinary way on the scientific inventory of this precious collection, also thanks to a series of iconographic and scientific analysis.

In addition to projects funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Institute is also associated with reserach projects in collaboration with other European higher education institutions and reserach centres. Until 2019, thanks to a funding of the École française de Rome, Christoph Frank and Carla Mazzarelli (lecturer at ISA) are following the project Lettere d’artista. Per una storia transnazionale dell’arte (XVIII-XIX sec.), in cooperation with scholars from the Università di Roma Tre and from the University of Calabria. Carla Mazzarelli is also responsible at ISA for the 3-year international reserach project (2015-2018) Copimonarch: the pictorical depiction of Hispanic Monarchy (XVI-XVII century), carried out by the University of Granada in cooperation with, among others, the Museo del Prado. The project aims at reconstructing the complex phenomenon of the circulation of Italian and Northern pictorial models in the Spanish kingdom, and in the world. An international convention on the subject will be held in June 2017 at the Museo del Prado.