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Archivio del Moderno


The Archivio del Moderno is a research centre active in the history of architecture, engineering, the territory, design and the visual arts. It is one of the constellation of institutes of the Università della Svizzera italiana as well as of the European network of research centres devoted to this field of studies. It was founded in 1996 as a institute of the Accademia di architettura in Mendrisio and was constituted as a foundation in 2004 by the Università della Svizzera italiana.

The Centre is a meeting place and a centre of collaboration for scholars from around the world. Its priorities include fostering the work of young researchers. It hosts post-doc and advanced researchers and fellows. It engages in a number of research projects funded by third-party institutions and competitive research institutes, and in this field it has undertaken multiple collaborations with the Accademia di architettura in Mendrisio as well as universities, research institutes, museums, archives and foundations both nationally and internationally.

In the field of research projects it has stipulated 42 conventions and agreements, creating a network of transnational scientific relations. In 2002, in support of a shared culture, the Centre signed a scientific cooperation agreement with the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage and Activities of the Italian Republic, renewed on 11 July 2012, at the Swiss Embassy in Rome. It has also implemented, in cooperation with Swiss diplomatic missions abroad, a cultural policy embodied in an increasingly highly articulated programme of scientific diplomacy.

The activities promoted by the Archivio del Moderno increase the contribution of knowledge presented by the historical, modern and contemporary debate concerning architectural culture. The Centre conducts studies aimed at defining new critical instruments for the analysis of architecture and investigates the development of the profession, the contribution made by the history of technology and by the encounter with the arts or with particular disciplines such as design, insights into issues such as forms of cultural transfer in architecture and its diversified ties with territories and the sense of belonging that can derive from them. One of the distinctive features of the Archivio del Moderno is the historical and critical reconstruction and valorisation of the contribution made by Ticinese builders to the history of architecture.

The Centre, in support of its research activity and a broad debate with the scientific community, has instituted two editorial series, one at the Mendrisio Academy Press and the other at the Edizioni Officina Libraria in Milan. They aim to promote a fruitful critical tension between different disciplines, developing a culture of critical-disciplinary interconnection in which the links between theoretical reflection and the world of practice can be focused and discussed.

The Archivio del Moderno has acquired over the years, through donations and bequests, an important documentary heritage that constitutes its distinctive endowment. It holds over 50 archives of architects, engineers, urbanists, designers and visual operators who played a significant role in the emergence of modernity, a legacy that is developing steadily through a targeted acquisition policy and is subjected to sorting and inventorying by various information systems.

The archives are valorised by studies and research projects which offer opportunities for discussion and interaction at conferences and study days organised in partnership with research organisations, foundations and other public and private partners. The results of these studies flow into a wide range of publications, from monographs to conference proceedings, articles in scholarly journals and frequent exhibitions at important museums.

From 1996 to the present, the Archivio del Moderno has to its credit 53 publications, including volumes and booklets; it has promoted 31 conferences and mounted 52 exhibitions. The Centre also organises cycles of lectures, seminars and presentations of volumes. 

One of its activities with a contemporary focus has entailed the coordination since 2007 of the BSI International Swiss Architectural Award, promoted by the BSI Architectural Foundation with the patronage of the Federal Office of Culture of the Swiss Confederation and the Accademia di architettura of the Università della Svizzera italiana. The Prize is awarded biennially to architects not over fifty years old, without distinction of nationality, who have made a significant contribution to contemporary architectural culture, demonstrating a particular sensibility to landscape and the environment.