The Library of the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture is one of the largest for the history of architecture and art in Switzerland. Its importance is now acknowledged internationally thanks to its continuously updated documentary collections and the bibliographic rarities it possesses, especially in the fields of the on art and architecture in Ticino, in its neighboring regions and in the Mediterranean area.
The Library is renown primarily for its rich bibliographic collections in the fields of history of architecture, visual culture and the arts in general, including theatrical and performing arts. Together with these core collections, it is also creating a new one with volumes and publications devoted to traditional, vernacular and popular architecture worldwide. By conducting research and acquiring historical and critical studies, scholarly texts dealing with urban history, photographic and illustrated books, sociological, ethnological and anthropological analyses, it increasingly documents experiences in primitive and historical self-build, as well as the growing experiments by which architectural culture makes its contributions to spontaneous and social architecture. To supplement these new lines of research, the Academy library has begun acquiring texts that extend to scientific issues, such as vegetable architecture, plant morphogenesis, bionics and biomechanics.
Particular attention is paid to publications dealing with the spillover into design of developments in technology and environment. To complement the already extensive collection on the history of construction techniques, the library is expanding the bibliographic sectors specially devoted to technological developments in the Modern Movement, which are further documented by a very substantial catalogue of monographs and the massive transformations of the territory and landscape induced by modernity.
As a stimulus to the consideration of architecture as a work of artistic creativity, there are also numerous titles dealing with the theory and philosophy of art, aesthetics and the critical debate. Finally, the library has a very rich collection of iconographic materials, typological compendia and technical manuals, which are extremely useful in the training of young architects.
The Library is a member of the Servizio Bibliotecario Universitario (Sbu) and is affiliated with the Sistema Bibliotecario Ticinese (Sbt). Since 2011, it has also been a member of artlibraries.net, an international catalogue of history of art and architecture that combines the library holdings of the most prestigious museums and libraries of art and architecture worldwide. Located next to Palazzo Turconi, the library is located in a building designed by Mario Botta and Aurelio Galfetti as a multipurpose lecture theatre and was adapted to its new function by the architect Peter Disch. It contains and makes available some 130.000 monographic volumes and over 600 specialist journals dealing with art, architecture, urban planning and related disciplines. It also receives more than 6.000 periodicals in electronic format.
The library contains the book collections of, among others, Pietro Bianchi, Enzo Frateili, Jacques Gubler, Augusto Guidini father and son, Gino and Gianna Macconi, Carlo Gastone Della Torre di Rezzonico, Augusto Rima, Sergio Steffen, Fritz Stuber, Virgilio Vercelloni, and Stanislaus von Moos.
The library ensures access to numerous databases, online or on physical media, such as: Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, Bibliography of the History of Arts, Iconda, Wilson Art Full Text, Oxford Reference Online, Wiley Interscience. Complementing the bibliographic databases, digital image libraries are also available, including ArtStor, Art Museum Image Gallery, Cinema Image Gallery and Prometheus.
Access to the library and the services it offers are free of charge, and are available to faculty, staff and students of the Academy as well as citizens. In the reading room there are 80 study seats, and 8 computer stations, of which 4 are reserved for bibliographical research and 4 are for free access to the Internet.
Books, journals and documentary materials, except for those held in storage, are displayed on the open shelves: the reader can access them individually, consult them in the library, or borrow them. Readers may also make requests to other libraries, in Switzerland or abroad, for items or photocopies of articles not available in the Academy library. The library staff provide guidance and assistance with bibliographic research and general library use.