Carola Barchi, Jachen Könz & Ludovica Molo
This new architecture school attracts students not only from Ticino and the rest of Switzerland but also from Italy and many other countries. In 1989 a competition for the design of a student residence was held among the lecturers at the Academia, but for a location that later had to be abandoned. Nevertheless, it still proved possible to pursue this project because a suitable site was found in the generously laid-out park of the canton institute of social psychiatry. The design follows clear classical principles of composition and recalls what Ticino architecture was like in the 1970s and 1980s, at a time when the idea of the type began to play a central role in architectural thought. One could be reminded of the traditional buildings with access decks, such as the blocks of housing around the canals in Milan. But everything that in these working class ghettos seems picturesquely dingy is here transformed into generously sized spaces filled with light.
The outer facades have infill openings made according to the rooms behind them, they seem anonymous and allow us no intimation of the surprising space between the two blocks that gives the project its identity but only becomes visible when one is standing directly in front of the buildings. Like in a theatre the rhythm of the decks and the railings frames the “stage” leading up the slope with its wonderfully cared-for grass meadow and the sculpture by artist Chiara Dynys. The approach to the apartments becomes a beautifully sensuous experience. As we climb the slope first of all the green meadow lies in front of us, then the precisely framed image of the park filled with light beyond the shaded cone that leads without interruption from the courtyard to beyond it, where the two symmetrical building volumes are connected by a narrow landscaped terrace.
Location: Mendrisio, Switzerland
Type: Student Housing
Client: Fondazione Casa dell’Accademia
Engineers: Passera & Pedretti Consulting Engineers
Photography: Walter Mair - Matteo Fontana - Marinho Velloso
Text: Andrea Casiraghi