Confined to the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, the Tichino School has consistently produced some of the most remarkable and finely articulated contemporary architecture of the past 30 years. Balancing a distinct regional culture with a mediated embrace of Modern architecture, the... [more]
Confined to the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, the Tichino School has consistently produced some of the most remarkable and finely articulated contemporary architecture of the past 30 years. Balancing a distinct regional culture with a mediated embrace of Modern architecture, the Tichinese output has navigated smoothly between the call for a vernacular architecture based on tradition and the overwhelming normative techniques of scientific Modern design method.
Clearly influenced by the Italian Tendenza, with antecedents in the pre-war Italian Rationalists, the Tichinese architects have benefited from the ability to judiciously appropriate the methodologies of varying strains of Modern architecture. Thus, Mario Botta, perhaps the most famed member of the group, was able to reconcile his interests in the post-war Italian Neo-Rationalists -- spearheaded by Aldo Rossi -- with his training under Carlo Scarpa, Louis Kahn, and Le Corbusier.
Botta's beginnings point to the strength of the Tichino School: the ability to synthesize outside influences and employ them to create a rooted, regional architecture. His seminal houses of the 1970s obliquely refer to historical types; the house at Riva San Vitale (1972-73) refers to the tower-like country homes that were once plentiful in the region. His material sensibility reflects the masonry traditions of the local agrarian structures while the silo or barn-like shells echo the traditional structures from which they are derived. Yet Botta's forms are not pastiche collages of types; rather, they are abstracted compositions that only obliquely state their historical affinities.
While his houses are located largely in rural or ex-urban sites, Botta and the Tichino architects scrupulously cultivate an urban, modern architecture. In this respect, the Tichino architects follow the precedent of the Italian Tendenza, whose approach, as described by Diane Ghirardo, understood building types "as rooted in the specific customs and habits of particular cities or parts of cities rather than abstract constructs independent of historical conditions." Thus, even the large-scale efforts of Botta and his oft-collaborator Luigi Snozzi operate not from an attitude of rapacious ex-novo development but a desire to weave together disparate pieces of the urban realm.
The 1971 Botta/Snozzi project for the Centro Direzionale, Perugia, is projected as a "city within a city," and the wider implications of this design clearly stem from its potential applicability to many megalopolitan situations throughout the world. Had it been realized, this center, conceived as a "viaduct-megastructure," could have established its presence in the urban realm without compromising the historic city or fusing with the chaos of the surrounding suburban development. The propriety of such interventions pursues a Critical Regionalist position, which understands cultures "not as something given and relatively immutable but rather as something which has, at least today, to be self-consciously cultivated." For the Tichino architects, the extreme conditions of a given project are never neglected in the search for the new and extraordinary, but rather are fused into a design that remains appropriate to site and context.