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Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture (ISA)


The Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture (ISA), recently founded at the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture, is by and large inspired by similar institutions such as History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art (HTC) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Boston or the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the Federal Polytechnic of Zurich, both of them still operative after decades of successful activity.

The various disciplines represented at the Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture – among them the history of art and architecture, philosophy or political thought or film and photographic studies (to cite but a few of the feasible options) – attempt to develop and implement open disciplinary concepts and tools in order to improve our understanding of the physical and social context of artistic and architectural design and production. Without limiting any of the potential fields of research to a specific period or geographical area in particular, it is one of the important aims of the institute to work towards a better comprehension of the complex processes in artistic and architectural creation. At the same time the institute wishes to encourage the exchange with and increasing integration of the historical and theoretical disciplines into the didactic life and the design process at the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture. 

Amongst the key activities of the institute feature the coordination at Bachelor’s and Master of Sciences’ level of all the theoretical disciplines and the history of art and architecture in particular, the development and supervision of research projects, with a special emphasis on doctoral studies which will eventually lead to the PhD (Dr. phil.); the organization of thematic lectures, lecture cycles and conferences, all designed to further enrich the intellectual life of the Academy and other institutes within the Università della Svizzera italiana; the institution of an endowed guest professorship for the duration of two semesters, the so-called Cattedra Borromini, intended for established representatives of their respective disciplines; furthermore the creation of a platform for competitive research; and last but not least the publication of monographs and collective volumes on any related question.

These various activities and initiatives will render the institute a precious instrument for integrating research and teaching in history and theory as vital components of contemporary architectural culture and its transmission to wider audiences.

Competence areas