“Slow practicing”: i progetti di Huang Yinwu nella storica città di Shaxi tra inclusione sociale e cultura materiale

“Slow practicing”: i progetti di Huang Yinwu nella storica città di Shaxi tra inclusione sociale e cultura materiale


The Shaxi Rehabilitation Project is a comprehensive conservation project in a remote rural area of the Yunnan Province, China. A once important stopover in the mountain area on the ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Trail, Shaxi still has plenty of built heritage. The architect Huang Yinwu, who studied at the Southeast University of Nanjing, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH) and at the Hong Kong University, worked as a leading project architect in Shaxi for more than 17 years, from 2003. The main topics raised by the case study deal with the local characters and topographical identity in the natural environment, the traditional craftsmanship and the intervention of modern constructions, the design, expressed by identifying and enhancing the value of Shaxi’s cultural heritage and the conservation of cultural legacies into the framework of social and economic development. Shaxi has a strong construction tradition, but it is also very fragile. Unlike the urban area, the traditional rural construction type is a system of experience gradually broadened after ongoing trials and mistakes. This is the reason why it is challenging to have new creations and developments; the same goes for new materials and technologies. For architects like Huang Yinwu, it is necessary to transform the empirical system into a theoretical one, and then provide a reliable construction model that is suitable for local conditions and technologies. In another sense, the key is working with and training local artisans so that they may understand new materials and structures and develop their skills.

Legare, incorniciare, sottolineare, amplificare: due progetti per gli spazi pubblici di insediamenti storici trentini

Linking, framing, underlining, amplifying: two projects for the public spaces in historic Trentino settlements


The small villages in rural areas of Trentino often share similar settlement principles (of Latin-Romansh origin) and destinies.
Their dense cores suffer from a phenomenon of consistent abandonment that causes the aweakening of the social structure and an increasing obsolescence of the buildings. The two projects of Castelfondo (Municipality of Borgo d’Anaunia) and Bolciana (Municipality of Tre Ville) are to be considered in this general context, in two small villages that felt the need to regenerate the public space to provide new places for social gathering and new facilities to the community. In Castelfondo, the abandonment of a building is the starting point of the project: instead of a decaying building, three small public spaces offer a new gathering place for the community. In Bolciana, the need to have spaces that would improve the quality of the existing places led to a project made of small artifacts in four squares. The two projects try to demonstrate that with a careful approach by the municipalities, the needs and problems of locations that are far from large tourist flows and main infrastructures can become fertile opportunities to reinvent spaces and meet emerging needs.

Il patrimonio e i suoi avatar. Note su due opere recenti nel Cantone Ticino

Heritage and its avatars.
Notes on two recent works in the Canton of Ticino


The text analyses two houses, namely, Cà da Paes in Aurigeno, by Buzzi studio di architettura and Casa Ferretti in Bedretto by Baserga Mozzetti architetti. Although they present different formal outcomes, what they have in common is the contrast between the appearance and reality of the construction system. This reality is finally revealed by the clues prepared by the architects, with an approach that is not intended to dissimulate but rather to slow down the perception of the work, or rather of its constructive character, which is grasped only on closer examination. A reconstruction of the genesis of the two buildings enables us to clarify this observation, showing that they are the result of an attempt to reconcile not only regulatory and budgetary constraints, but also the different conceptions of heritage cultivated by the clients, architects and the municipal and cantonal control commissions. Each of these is reflected in a different image of “heritage”, the result of their different beliefs and convictions. The works discussed here seek to deal with this plurality of interpretations (and the divergent impulses arising from them), by embodying them as a theme of the design, which they interpret by treading with delicate poise (on the verge of ambiguity) the fine line between dissimulation and exhibition: an original path, in the recent architecture of the Canton Ticino, but not without its pitfalls.

The legacy of building in the mountain. A report from the Grisons


In the Alps, the cultural landscape changes with the way people live and act. Social structures and economic conditions shape human needs and define the appearance of the territory and landscape, contributing to the development of specific settlement and housing models, in close relationship with the place.
The local typology and construction technologies, developed throughout the history, thus embody the responses to the particular local housing needs, characterizing the places according to different cultural influences.
These conditions, together with the influences of the environmental and natural context, as well as the cultural aspects linked to the traditions of the local communities, today are still distinctive elements of the characterization of the villages and mountain valleys.
The essay, starting from design experiences conducted personally by the architects in their region of origin – the Grisons – explores the many suggestions that the “legacy” of the different ways of building in the mountains offered for their design work. From space planning to materials, from construction solutions to typology, the architectural projects of Capaul & Blumenthal, both in the case of the recovery of the existing heritage and in the case of new buildings, seem to move from a clever re-interpretation of the complex heritage that combines savoir faire, knowledge, inspirations and materials, to seek careful answers to the current problems of the Alpine world.

Wie entwirft man “mit Geschichte“? Über Gion A. Caminada oder wie Architekten historische (Vor-)Bilder rekonzeptualisieren

How do you design “with history”? Gion A. Caminada and the architectural reconceptualization of historical models


Gion Caminada has left tangible traces of the dialogue with the building tradition of his region, the Grisons. On closer inspection, however, he does not design by following history: he does not take up or add, but reconceptualizes knowledge in new spatial experiences, interpreting what already exists and sometimes combining it with “finds” from other historical sources.
The awareness that nothing interesting can arise from copies faithful to the original leads to the belief that designing “with history” implies a transformation.
Gion Caminada is an architect who interprets the construction traditions of his place very serenely, designing on them and at the same time updating their meanings. Think of the revival of the Strickbau, one of the oldest methods of building with timber in Grisons, which has been reinterpreted in a freer way to create smoother transitions between rooms inside the buildings and generate a refined interaction between open and closed spaces or even create unprecedented relationships between the inside and the outside.
At the same time, the study of his projects reveals other historical references in the field of international art and architecture of the past, an aspect that is clear for example in its similarity to concrete art, neoplasticism, and constructivism, through a strong interest in the creation of plastic and sculptural spaces.
Therefore, designing “with history” does not imply a repetition of what history itself, a place, a memory, or an image “present” to the architect, but a comparison and a further thought.

Désinences vernaculaires : architecture alpine en Valais

Vernacular declinations: Alpine architecture in Valais


Since the term ‘vernacular’ has been used to frame an ‘architectural gender’, not a constructed heritage, particularly that of the rural economy in the mountains, reality has been dispossessed, and all the natural elements are, in fact, the result of a natural restoration. This was the case in Valais under the architectural governance of Edmond Giroud and Maurice Zermatten during the Trente Glorieuses. Their belief in a narrow regionalism aspiring to an identity, which they defined as a ‘neo-Valaisan’ style, wiped out modernist aspirations. In order to fight against an outdated censorship, architects react by exalting the modernist cause, which sometimes makes them forget that any new form can also be the result of a critique of the forms established by tradition, or the result of an order that is specific to the architectural project. Alongside the multiple conclusions of the ‘vernacular gender’ – the latter understood narrowly as tradition – a more daring project can be measured across the whole of the Valais and Alpine territory. From the simple dwelling house to the imposing dam, the scale adopted is a territorial measure, an order of thought that internalises a necessity, engaging the author in a work that is less autobiographical and more empirical. On the one hand, there are the virtuosos of the vernacular and, on the other, those who propose a territorial project, such as Jean-Paul Darbellay.

La casa di Giandomenico Belotti a Fogajard

The Giandomenico Belotti’s house in Fogajard


This essay presents the Saccomani family house, designed in the 1960s by Giandomenico Belotti in Fogajard, a cluster of isolated farmsteads near Madonna di Campiglio where, to this day, one may still breathe the farming life atmosphere of the times gone by. The clients developed a particular affection for the place and chose it for their free time. A bond is created and lives through a project that interprets the theme of the refuge in a modern way. Built at the margins of the meadows, at the limit of the woodland, the architecture abstracts the elements of tradition and translates them with today’s language, with no winking or analogies. The dry appearance of the exteriors, made of reinforced concrete walls, timber infills and a cantilevering horizontal roof, is matched by warm and welcoming interiors made of wooden and textile elements. It is through the architect’s coherent approach and his friendship with a passionate client that this work finds its particular shape, giving life to an authentic and honest experience of Alpine dwelling.

Gli «effetti» della tradizione. Trasmutazioni dell’architettura storica nell’opera di Carlo Mollino

Gli «effetti» della tradizione. Trasmutazioni dell’architettura storica nell’opera di Carlo Mollino


As Daniele Vitale wrote, the elements of historical Alpine tradition seem to be, for Mollino, “pretexts” for an exploration and formal manipulation that seeks its ways and directions.
Rural architecture is therefore seen not as the bearer of an “objective rationality”, but as a set of materials that, thanks to the design interpretation, determines unprecedented fields of value. The process that characterizes many of his mountain works rarely follows the linear logic of problem solving but is characterized by a deviation that creates a new value space, a gap that distances it from the outcome considered as a consequential act.
Let us think of the device of recovery and distortion of archetypes and conventional configurations of the historical tradition, which become a pretext for reinterpretations that generate new tectonic and formal meanings. Let us consider also their disassembly and reassembly to understand their constructive relationships, static configurations, tectonic logics, which were reused in the creation of his design devices; or the metamorphic and metasemic transmutations of some constructive figures exasperated to the point that, from being part of a whole, they are amplified and hyperbolized until they coincide with the overall architectural configuration. The essay, by retracing some of Carlo Mollino’s numerous projects developed in the Alpine area and some of his main built works, tries to identify some of the conceptual devices employed in his mountain construction site.

Verso una Nuova Oggettività del paesaggio. Strumenti e metodi di Edoardo Gellner

Towards a New Objectivity of the landscape. Edoardo Gellner’s tools and methods


Edoardo Gellner never concealed the fact that he was a self-taught architect, although the references to the pragmatism of the Deutscher Werkbund and the theoretical teachings of the first Bauhaus are evident in his works. Drawing and photography are the tools through which Gellner educates his eye to look at the reality of things objectively and analytically. His method of analysis is based on a careful understanding of the territory and its matrices: from the comparison between military cartography and cadastral maps, Gellner draws a whole series of considerations on the historical, morphological, and social reasons that led to the development of such landscapes, and the study of centurial grids offers Gellner a counterproof to his theories. Thus, understanding the motivations of architecture but above all the origins of a landscape become the themes that Gellner deepens in an extensive series of studies for publications that were never completed that make these menabò real synthetic “or even artistic” visions of the landscape, as a tribute to the most perfect purovisibilist theory.

Observer la transformation du monde. Un architecte moderne en alpage

Observing the transformation of the world. A modern architect in the Alpine pastures


The 20th century marked the beginning of the massive transformation of mountain lifestyles. The architects took this opportunity to extend their experimental territories to the Alps. The French architect Albert Laprade had a very different approach. Having arrived in Haute-Savoie in the mid-1920s to spend his holidays, he gradually bought the Charousse mountain pasture in the village of Les Houches (Haute-Savoie, France). He transformed it into a family resort by including some cottages of modern comfort, focusing on preserving the landscape structures of the place. This article reviews this particular approach in the journey of an architect who, moreover, builds in a “modern” style. By questioning the tools he mobilizes from his pasture, we will see how Albert Laprade implements an active observation of the territory. From photography to the collection of objects, it brings together the traces of changing traditional lifestyles. But without turning into the past, he works to promote on the national architectural scene the achievements that are fully anchored in the present life, the architects who build the “climate stations” in the mountains. Then, the Alps become a timeless setting, an observation post from which the architect seems to be able to withdraw to evaluate the modern world.

Le ricerche novecentesche sulla casa rurale alpina tra questione epistemologica e narrazioni legittimanti

Twentieth-century research on the Alpine rural house between the epistemological issue and legitimizing narratives


Throughout the twentieth century, the gazes of observers from different disciplinary fields, ethnologists, geographers, architects have focused on the Alpine rural house. What do scholars seek within the theme of the house and the rural area?
In Switzerland, the pioneering nineteenth-century studies were followed by research, starting from the 1870s, by the philologist Jakob Hunziker. In his analysis, he took into consideration not only exceptional constructions but also widespread building production. Buildings were detected and illustrated through diagrammatic “primarily planimetric” and photographic representations. However, the original data in Hunziker’s work is found above all in the correlation that is established between language and architecture.
In this context, rural architecture is no longer a simple determinist adhesion to the natural and environmental context in which one lives but becomes a historically determined affirmation of a verified and mediated cultural model concerning the local datum.
Alongside the readings of geographers and ethnologists, there is the chapter of the studies on the rural house conducted by architectural culture. The theme of rural architecture will represent a subject of dispute with often ideological overtones between proponents of modernity and those of traditionalism.
Towards the mid-thirties, Pagano’s semantic translation represents the definitive shift, at least by the architects of the modernist front, from a mere question of a more complex theme, capable of considering the multiple aspects of building in the countryside, culminating in the exhibition Architettura rurale Italiana by Pagano and Daniel. The use of the category of functionalism when dealing with the farmer house allows to recognize rural architecture as a discipline and simultaneously allows it to function as a cultural background and a historical validation for rationalism.

Il patrimonio alpino nelle pubblicazioni svizzere

Alpine heritage in Swiss publications


Switzerland boasts a wide production of publications dedicated to its architectural heritage that offer an articulated overview of Swiss architecture from the so-called bourgeois to the rural one. Starting from the monumental study by the philologist Jakob Hunziker (1827-1901) on the Swiss house in its landscape and historical development, two series of books have been written, namely Die Bauernhäuser der Schweiz and Das Bürgerhaus in der Schweiz. The peculiarity of these two series is their method and completeness, the result, among other things, of a careful cultural policy capable of finding and organizing the necessary means. In this context, there are some publications with substantially different approaches to those mentioned above. The fundamental difference lies in the fact that the analyses and descriptions are not limited to the single artefacts but investigate their ways of aggregation, relating the building typology with urban morphology. This is one of the characteristics of La costruzione del territorio nel Canton Ticino by Aldo Rossi, Eraldo Consolascio, and Max Bosshard, published in 1979 by the Fondazione Ticino Nostro. In this publication, there is no solution of continuity between the vernacular buildings and the more “noble” ones, often rather ancient and the result of an extraordinary ability to include and combine elements. The example of La costruzione del territorio was followed by other publications that share its same methods and objectives. Among these, two volumes dated 1983 should be noted; they are dedicated to the villages of Avers and Soglio respectively and both were created by the Department of Architecture of the Technical School of Muttenz. In these publications, renouncing the separation between vernacular buildings and bourgeois houses leads to a more accurate reading of the real size of the settlements, as opposed to the idyllic image of the mountain village consisting exclusively of rural artefacts.

L’invenzione della casa svizzera: ingegneri, etnografi e artisti alla scoperta della costruzione vernacolare alpina

The invention of the Swiss house: engineers, ethnographers and artists to the discovery of the Alpine vernacular construction


At the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, Switzerland presented itself to the world by exhibiting an imaginary synthetic village, making the conflicting features of the various Cantons – which for a few decades gathered under the flag of the Confederation – the founding elements of its national identity. These features were based on the cultural core of the “idem Alpine feeling” defined by the primitive cantons of Alemannic language, Catholic religion, and mountain economy.
Not being able to express an authentic image by drawing on the nation’s historicized heritage, the focus is on popular architecture. The Alpine House has built and nurtured a resilient narrated “myth” which, in its architectural form of “chalet” typical of the Bernese Oberland, has helped feed a generalist image of considerable pro-motional and commercial success for Switzerland and its industry.
In the twentieth century, during the industrial growth of the nation, campaigns of survey and inventory of the rural and bourgeois “heritage” tried to scientifically systematize the heterogeneous disciplinary approaches that had undertaken the interpretation of the Alpine house in the previous century. Social, economic, and cultural functions are the raison d’être of the vernacular construction and are expressed in the lexicon of typological, constructive, and decorative elements.
The specific linguistic and cultural affiliations translate not only into different materials, techniques, and forms of construction but also into different settlement models in the territory. An unwavering mythology has been built and, paradoxically, the national identity has been modelled on the assumption that Germans are “assemblers” of logs, and Latins are “builders” who use stone.

Il Corpus vivente. Nuovi divenire progettuali dell’architettura alpina storica

The living Corpus. New design developments of historical Alpine architecture


The Corpus of historical architecture – built by traditional societies in the Alps be-tween the great settlement phase of the twelfth-thirteenth century and the break caused by twentieth-century modernization – represents one of the main references when addressing the topic of building in the mountains.
It is recognized as having authority. It is to it that we appeal – from the nineteenth-century Swiss-German treatises, through Adolf Loos and Giuseppe Pagano, to contemporary designers – to legitimize theories or to support collective images on building in the mountains.
The Corpus of historical Alpine architecture, however, consists not only of the materiality of the buildings and infrastructures, but above all of the dense layering of exegesis and interpretations. The essay highlights how in recent years, however, it seems to be set in motion again through actions of a different nature: on the one hand, the weakening of a patrimonial paradigm that only placed the recognition of historical values and the conservation-enhancement of heritage at the center; on the other hand, the emergence of an unprecedented issue related to the construction of a new habitability in the Alps through projects for the revitalization and re-generation of territories based on the need for spaces that provide social interaction to the community, welfare, and culture production.
This creates a new demand for the construction of “use values” that goes beyond the historical and symbolic values of heritage; thus, an unprecedented way of looking and thinking about things is required to prefigure a new civilization of the mountain in which legacies return to being a living body.”

Editoriale – Il corpo vivente. Interpretazioni progettuali dell’architettura alpina storica

Il corpus dell’architettura tradizionale storica che ha plasmato il territorio alpino prima della “rottura” novecentesca – approfondito nel saggio introduttivo– è stato in epoca moderna e contemporanea una sorta di passaggio obbligato per tutti coloro che, progettisti e studiosi, si sono occupati in modi differenti di architettura e paesaggio delle Alpi. Trattare gli aspetti legati alla “tradizione” significa inevitabilmente inoltrarsi in un terreno estremamente scivoloso ed ambiguo.
Come di fatto non esista un’architettura alpina intesa come «secrezione naturale del paesaggio e delle genti e nemmeno del contesto montano» (Reichlin,1995), così non si può parlare infatti di una tradizione alpina univoca ed assoluta dalla quale discendono in modo spontaneo le modalità insediative, architettoniche e tecnologiche sviluppate nei secoli passati. Le tradizioni (al plurale) che sono oggetto di questa trattazione sono dunque considerate tali in quanto approcci consolidati di sviluppare soluzioni costruttive ed insediative a partire dalla traduzione sul piano fisico delle condizioni geografiche, sociali, culturali ed economiche di un dato territorio, secondo un processo mai lineare di circolazione di modelli, riferimenti e linguaggi. Allo stesso modo possiamo dire che – dagli approcci più conservatori che si attengono ad un “obbedire alle cose” fino alle trasmutazioni più radicali – l’uso delle tante tradizioni del mondo alpino da parte degli architetti contemporanei non è astratta ed anacronistica riproposizione di tecniche e modelli. Esso è piuttosto ipotesi programmatica, tecnica progettuale, atto compositivo o concettuale, e muove sempre da una reinterpretazione critica della realtà. Non a caso, la questione di una ri-attualizzazione (o reinterpretazione) dei modi e delle tecniche della tradizione è stata uno dei nodi concettuali e tematici più ricchi di spunti e riflessioni nella definizione di un modus operandi progettuale per i moderni sulle Alpi. Ciò continua ad essere un tema attuale anche nella cultura contemporanea nella misura in cui si consideri la rilettura della produzione spontanea alpina materia progettuale attiva e non solo sterile riproposizione di stilemi come avvenuto negli anni del “rustico internazionale”. Superata anche un’interpretazione di carattere funzionalista, che vede l’architettura tradizionale come portatrice di “razionalità oggettiva” – si pensi a Pagano e agli altri studi dei moderni sulla casa ed il mondo rurale – oggi la reinterpretazione del patrimonio apre a nuovi significati e nuovi percorsi fertili di ricerca progettuale. I saggi e i progetti pubblicati in questo numero mostrano come la cultura architettonica di oggi possa attingere a quell’enorme bacino semantico, di approcci, di linguaggi, di figurazioni, di tecniche, per estrapolarne riferimenti insediativi, tettonici, distributivi, tecnologici, utili allo sviluppo del progetto contemporaneo. Se nell’immaginario collettivo, alla storia e alle tradizioni locali – complice anche la cultura patrimonializzante che ha permeato i dibattiti negli ultimi decenni – si associa l’idea di una presunta immobilità e atemporalità, le recenti esperienze di progetto sembrano invece mettere in luce modalità che mostrano nuove flessibilità evolutive, facendole tornare materia vivente.


The corpus of traditional architecture that had shaped the Alpine territory before the 20th-century “rupture” – which is looked further into in the introductory essay – in the modern and contemporary ages has been a basis for designers and scholars who have dealt with different modes of interpreting architecture and the landscape in the Alps. Dealing with aspects linked to “tradition” means stepping into an extremely slippery and ambiguous terrain. Just as there is no Alpine architecture in the sense of a «natural secretion of the landscape and people or even of the mountain context» (Reichlin, 1995), we cannot speak of an absolute Alpine tradition that produced the settlement, architectural and technological methods developed in past centuries. The traditions (in the plural form) discussed here are considered as such because they are consolidated approaches of constructive and settlement solutions. These approaches develop from the physical translation of geographical, social, cultural, and economic conditions of a territory, according to a non-linear circulation of models, references, and languages. In the same way, we can state that – from the more conservative approaches that “obey things” to the most radical transmutations – the use of “tradition” by contemporary architects in the Alps does not lead to an abstract and anachronistic re-proposition of techniques and models. On the contrary, it is a programmatic hypothesis, a design technique, a compositional or conceptual act, and it always arises from a critical re-interpretation of reality. Not surprisingly, the issue of re-actualizing (or re-interpreting) ways and techniques of tradition was one of the key concepts giving rise to countless ideas and considerations when defining a design modus operandi for Moderns in the Alps. This continues to be a relevant theme in contemporary culture, if one considers the re-interpretation of spontaneous Alpine production as an active design material and not only as a sterile re-proposal of stylistic elements as occurred in the years of the “international rustic”. Having overcome a functionalist interpretation that sees traditional architecture as a symbol of “objective rationality” – think of Pagano and other modern studies on the house and the rural world – nowadays the re-interpretation of heritage opens to new meanings and new fertile research and design paths. The essays and projects published in this issue show how today’s architectural culture may be inspired by the enormous array of approaches, languages, figurations, techniques that extrapolate references useful to contemporary projects. If in the collective image history and local traditions – also thanks to a heritage culture that has dominated the debates in the last decades – are associated with an idea of presumed immobility and timelessness, recent project experiences show new flexibility of evolution, making them return to being a living matter.

Lavorare dentro le cose: nuove architetture sulle Alpi occidentali

È dalla nascita della rivista stessa che il comitato editoriale coltiva il desiderio di dedicare un numero alla produzione architettonica contemporanea sulle Alpi occidentali. Vuoi per le difficoltà di comparare questo spazio alpino rispetto a contesti in cui la cultura architettonica ha giocato un ruolo decisivo nello sviluppo dei territori, vuoi per le evidenti disparità in termini anche quantitativi con l’architettura delle Alpi centro-orientali – a cui è peraltro stato dedicato il numero precedente –, non è mai stato tentato un lavoro sistematico di ricognizione estensiva dell’architettura di qualità sulle montagne dell’arco alpino occidentale. Il lavoro costante di osservatorio e di monitoraggio del territorio, delle sue architetture e dei professionisti che lavorano nelle valli, fatto nell’ultimo decennio attraverso le pagine di questa rivista, e con altre ricerche e pubblicazioni dell’Istituto di Architettura Montana, ha sempre messo in luce la frammentarietà, la discontinuità e la mancanza di un’identità riconoscibile della produzione architettonica dell’ovest delle Alpi. Contesti molto diversi che, nonostante la prossimità linguistica e culturale, fortemente caratterizzate dalle matrici latine e dalle lingue occitane e francoprovenzali, hanno vissuto vicende storiche, sociali ed economiche profondamente differenti. Si pensi anche solo alla diversità tra il Vallese svizzero ed uno qualunque dei cinque départements alpini francesi (Alpes-Maritimes, Hautes-Alpes, Isère, Savoie et Haute-Savoie), o ancora al divario tra la Valle d’Aosta, intramontana e a Statuto Speciale, e il Piemonte, in cui nel territorio montano vive solo il 20% circa della popolazione totale della regione. Queste difformità si sono anche tradotte in differenti modalità di gestione del territorio, di perseguimento di politiche urbanistiche ed edilizie, di gestione amministrativa degli apparati pubblici, di formazione professionale, di produzione culturale, di creazione di visioni sociali ed economiche, che nel corso dei decenni hanno prodotto sul piano fisico esiti estremamente vari e diversificati. La sfida di realizzare questo numero è diventata ben presto l’occasione per dare vita innanzitutto ad un nuovo percorso di ricerca transfrontaliera, sul campo, a contatto diretto con referenti di fiducia (studiosi e appassionati) sul territorio, sfogliando le pagine dei portfolio di decine di studi professionali. Il lavoro si è ben presto rivelato una scoperta, la piacevole sorpresa di un evidente segno di cambiamento di rotta sulle Alpi occidentali, che mostra una situazione ben diversa anche solo da un decennio fa, e dove la produzione architettonica odierna si mostra fortemente interconnessa con le trasformazioni sociali, economiche e culturali in atto. L’architettura contemporanea sembra infatti farsi strada con coraggio nelle valli delle Alpi occidentali, e lo fa non attraverso gli accomodanti luoghi comuni del mainstream architettonico internazionale o le facili sicurezze di retoriche consolidate e reiterate, ma rendendosi invece traduttrice di istanze complesse, ritagliandosi piccoli spazi di movimento nelle trame delle realtà socio-economiche locali, portando innovazione nei modi quanto nelle tecniche, interpretando con rigore critico le peculiarità dei territori e dei patrimoni. La selezione delle 34 opere presentate nel volume mette in evidenza alcune tematiche emergenti che caratterizzano la produzione contemporanea e che compongono un racconto corale in cui l’architettura diventa testimonianza “costruita” delle trasformazioni in atto sul territorio montano contemporaneo: dalla produzione della cultura all’abitare, dai servizi all’ambiente e al paesaggio, fino al patrimonio


Working inside things: new architecture in the Western Alps

Since the beginning of ArchAlp’s experience, the editorial committee has been cultivating the desire to dedicate an issue to contemporary architectural production in the Western Alps. Either for the difficulties in comparing this alpine space with those contexts in which architectural culture has played a decisive role in the development of the territories, or for the evident disparities in terms of quantity with the architecture of the Central and Eastern Alps – which is the main theme of the previous issue – a systematic survey of the Western Alps architectural quality was never attempted. A constant work of observation and monitoring of the landscape – with its architecture and the professionals who work in the valleys – has been carried out not only through the pages of this journal but also through other research and publications undertaken by the Institute of Mountain Architecture. This observatory work has always been accomplished by highlighting the fragmentation, the discontinuity, and the lack of a recognisable identity of the architectural production of the Western Alps. Very different contexts which, despite the linguistic and cultural proximity – strongly characterised by Latin roots and the Occitan and Franco-Provençal languages – have experienced profoundly different historical, social, and economic events. Just think of the diversity between the Swiss Valais and any of the five French Alpine départements (Alpes-Maritimes, Hautes-Alpes, Isère, Savoie et Haute-Savoie); or the gap between Aosta Valley, which is a special administrative area fully among the mountains, and Piedmont, where only about 20% of the total population of the region lives in the mountain area. These variations have involved different methods of land management, urban planning and building policies, administrative management of public machinery, professional training, cultural production, creation of social and economic visions. All features which, over the decades, have been producing extremely varied and diversified outcomes from a physical standpoint. What could be a challenge is soon transformed into an opportunity: by leafing through the portfolios of dozens of professional firms, this issue wants to give life to a new cross-border research path, involved in the field and put in direct contact with trusted local representatives (scholars and enthusiasts). This work very soon turned into a discovery: a pleasant surprise of an evident change of path in the Western Alps, which shows an extremely different situation if compared to even just a decade ago. Now the architectural production seems strongly intertwisted with the social, economic, and cultural transformation taking place in these territories. Indeed, contemporary architecture in the Alpine valleys seems to make its way with courage, and it does so not by indulging the accommodating clichés of the international architectural mainstream, or the easy certainties of consolidated and reiterated rhetoric, but instead by becoming a translator of complex instances, carving out small manoeuvring spaces in the plots of local socio-economic realities, bringing innovation in both ways and techniques and interpreting with critical rigour the peculiarities of territories and heritage. The selection of the 34 works presented in this volume highlights some emerging themes which characterise contemporary production. It aims to fabricate a choral story, where architecture becomes a “built” testimony of the transformations taking place in the contemporary mountain territory: from the production of culture to the inhabiting practices, from facilities to landscape and heritage.

Architettura nel farsi delle cose

Architecture in making things


When compared with the central-eastern ones, the Western Alps have experienced a growing marginality in the new century. After all, getting out of the heavy legacy left by twentieth-century modernisation – abandonment of territories and tourism – is not easy.
Today, however, there seems to be some evidence of a radical change in sensitivity, characterised by an awareness of the potential and limits of the contemporary architecture in relation to local dimension.
This is how environment, landscape, history, traditions, heritage are no longer just a “fetish” to be exhibited for the mountain users, but become the threads with which contemporaneity tries to mend the ties interrupted with the territories.
Quality architecture no longer seems to be just a self-referential exercise of composition, but a conscious opportunity to translate the demands, imaginaries, expectations, identities of the territories, in physical projects.
Projects that are within the processes and that necessarily respond to compromises, in which sometimes the aesthetic-formal aspect is only one among all that control the project, that become the result of extremely diversified and contrasting questions.
This working condition, always at the edge of the processes, inevitably also affects the forms of architecture, in which the difficulties and precariousness of the operational context become a prerequisite for the characterisation of the figurative and architectural aspects.

Qualcosa di nuovo sul fronte occidentale

Something new on the Western Front


Until a few years ago, the panorama of recent architectural production in the southern Alps seemed merciless. Now the balances have partially balanced themselves out, defining new geographies. If we look at the phenomenon with a certain detachment, we can see that the accumulated delay has not only harmed. In fact, considering the scene of today’s global architecture, the exasperated tension for the morphology, the search for the sensationalism of the image as an essential element of marketing, the authorship and self-referentiality of the gesture seem to finally disappear.
In other words, the new, the novelty – not to be confused with innovation – as ontological values, has, fortunately, lost part of its appeal, in favour of other themes linked to the context, the appropriateness of uses, compatibility, environmental, to the rewriting and reuse of the existing. If we link this to the current socio-economic situation, which sees the reconsideration of inland areas, the crisis of certain models of consumption – including tourism – of the territory and the redistribution of flows, unprecedented opportunities arise for previously marginal geographical realities, if not completely excluded from the circuits and narratives of the glamorous mountain. This gives rise to design opportunities cultivated in understatement, perhaps “suffered” but far from the “performance anxieties” that often connote glossy and designer interventions that we usually see elsewhere.

Architetture per la cultura. Ridefinire la montagna contemporanea

Architecture for culture. Re-defining the contemporary mountain


Alpine architecture for culture seems to best represent the evolution over time of the very concept of alpine architecture.
By their actual nature, these buildings are configured not only as meeting spaces for the inhabitants but also – and above all – as means of attraction for visitors from the cities, towards which these objects seem to assume the role of real business cards. Thanks to the diffusion of virtuous reference models of contemporary architecture from all over the Alps, operated starting from 1992 by the Neues Bauen in den Alpen / Alpine Contemporary Architecture award, in recent decades Alpine architecture has begun to become an increasingly debated topic. Alpine architecture for culture, therefore, seems to play a particularly significant role in the construction of a new image on the contemporary Alps, and the buildings dedicated to its diffusion seem to succeed especially when they abandon the tourist imaginaries on the traditional and the typical Alpine, often distorted and stereotyped, to embrace a vision that undertakes a reinterpretation of local historical elements in the current context. Proposing cultural alpine buildings which look towards contemporaneity can therefore represent a great contribution in the diffusion of the mountain as a container of current events, as well as heritage and tradition.
For these reasons, cultural architectures located in the mountains should also look to the present in their forms.
Within this issue, are presented three architectures located in France, and three Italian projects, which are located in Priero, in Piedmont, and Estoul and Bard in the Aosta Valley.

Dedans et contre le patrimoine

Within and against heritage


There are the Alps, the Alpine space, and there is heritage or heritages, depending on the meaning of the term and on the position adopted with regard to the questions raised by this notion. Heritage is not only something that exists and to which we are attached, but it should also be possible to produce it. It is this production that is addressed in these brief reflections on architectural works that attempt to combine heritage and “montagnité”.
As soon as the mountain is built upon, the problem of form and, therefore, of its shaping arises. It is the latter that requires production, i.e. a way of thinking that is capable of thematising both the mountain and the heritage. But what are we talking about when we apply the heritage label to Alpine architecture? Is this what is commonly defined as edilizia rurale (rural housing)? Or is it the architectural work that interprets the edilizia rurale and, in a way, absorbs it?
Assuming that the heritage regime in the mountains is part of the variation and not the fixity of a notion such as that of the monument, and that the notion of heritage informs and conforms every architectural project in the mountains, it is possible to put forward a second hypothesis and to affirm that both the edilizia rurale and the architectural projects that transform it, operating within and against it, are heritage. For the latter, however, the rules that Adolf Loos wrote for those who build in the mountains remain valid.

Abitare, abitazione

To dwell, dwelling


The verb “to dwell” has seen its meaning gradually expanded beyond the field of housing to cover wider ranges. In its various extensions, the debate on housing today has been mainly developed within the urban environment, while in the mountain (and alpine) context there seems to be a greater interest in matters of expressive language. The echoes of the close coherence between building, living and housing that characterised the Alps of the past are now far away. This contribution investigates how, in light of a point of view on dwelling between housing and territory, architecture can help to develop a project for the home that represents the new vitality that is affecting the Alps and its society. Ethics of the job, meaning of building, response to social questions, relational value of the architectural form and of the “in-between” space are some themes that are introduced as possible tools for a practice on the subject.

L’invenzione come forma di resistenza. Le attrezzature, i servizi e la produzione nelle Alpi

Invention as a form of resistance.
Equipment, services and production in the Alps


As Werner Bätzing (2003) points out in his book on Alpine geography, producers who do not emigrate and stay in the Alps do not act from an economic perspective but for social and cultural reasons. To resist the climatic, morphological and settlement difficulties, Alpine producers have always been driven to innovate, experimenting with new models, combining various forms of activity and independently creating the services necessary for their activity and social life. Today, after decades characterised by the abandonment of productive activities in the mountains, inventions as a form of resistance is once again one of the main themes of contemporary Alpine spaces. This chapter explores the issue of innovations in equipment, services and production in the Alps from two points of view. The first is that of a new generation of producers, entrepreneurs and project developers who are changing the way of producing in the mountains, by creating networks, sectors and services in the territory. The second is that of architects who experiment with new typological variations and constructive processes on the theme of production buildings in line with recent developments in ways of producing and working.

Lentius, profundius, suavius, tre coordinate dell’abitare contemporaneo

Lentius, profundius, suavius, three coordinates of contemporary living


The aphorism lentius, profundius, suavius of Alexander Langer overturns the most famous citius, altius, fortius. It is both a program and a vision to face the most urgent challenges of our time.
Outdoor is the priority action context to design possible ways of reconciliation with the environment, the only way to rediscover the balanced integration with nature that Adriano Olivetti indicated as an antidote to the harmfulness of the urban environment.
Nature plays a decisive role in our society. According to the German philosopher Gernot Böhme, this general reference to nature on the one hand is indicative of a desire to compensate for a lifestyle that is increasingly distant from its rhythms and its essence, on the other it represents a profound and radical removal.
The pandemic has definitively undermined some of the dominant paradigms, leading to the establishment of a new phenomenology of nature based on perception. The health issue has quickly, and perhaps irreversibly, changed our lifestyles and our relationships with nature.
In high-altitude contexts, the archetypes of architecture become the concepts through which architecture redefines its dialogue with the landscape by innovating its grammar and semantic relationships. A complex dialogue that triggers new genealogies and belonging in which design solutions become an opportunity for experimenting and innovating processes, forms and technologies.
The following projects address these issues with respect to two founding themes of architecture: the refuge and the threshold.

Ragioni del passato e condizioni del presente

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Past reasons and present conditions


Traditional Alpine architecture is based on an important set of construction techniques and forms that are waiting to be re-evaluated, so that they can become material for contemporary projects. For this to be possible, new interpretative instruments should be found to overcome the stereotypes that have often reduced tradition to a caricature, counterposing it to innovation. At this particular time, building in the mountains does not exclusively mean responding to certain needs which stem from the expansion of massive tourism phenomena. The projects of Nexus! Associates aim at looking for answers, especially about new ways of living in the valleys and marginal areas. Hence, it is now possible to imagine a new balance between tradition and innovation, past reasons and present conditions, uses and memories, with the understanding that every act of design is always a contemporary construction.

Conoscere i luoghi, interpretare il cambiamento

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Knowing places, interpreting change


Working in a context with a strong character such as the Alpine territories, but also other locations, leads to dealing face-to-face with the elements that influence the project. Natural morphology, together with anthropic transformations, provide references and opportunities for inspiration which allow us to give significance to the new elements we introduce. In their projects, Weber+Winterle deem it necessary to identify forms and building techniques deeply rooted in the reality in which they are hosted, so that they become essential and indispensable. Besides, they also consider it fundamental to establish a connection with the context: in particular, they develop an awareness of historical events, the evolution of the architectural language and, as a result, the transformations of the landscape. In this sense, the act of “designing in the mountains” represents a sort of “comfort zone” to them. Working on slopes, exploiting the opportunity to define different and articulated access systems; dealing with an ever-present background which, whether enhanced or neglected, becomes part of the project; confronting the different points of view required by a three-dimensional landscape; investigating the building techniques and the settlement modalities passed down through the ages. These are some of the topics that W+W consider familiar, and that are part of their memories, not only professional but also personal, since both of them were born and raised in the mountains.

Tradurre la tradizione

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Translating tradition


One of the most important aspects of my approach is the interest in the variations and translations of tradition, in the conviction that the most sensitive part of our life must be satisfied through the search for different ways of interacting with places, in relation to the spaces we inhabit. If these thoughts were shared, then, part of our mountain “habitat” could certainly be rethought in terms of form and substance, according to its specific needs, so that marginal areas are not penalised in both material – and nowadays also digital – exchanges with cities. All this must certainly also condition the shape of the building, from living places/ dwellings to infrastructures. The evolution of the form is the result of a process that planners and designers must be able to identify and develop autonomously, according to the actual needs of the context, making it possible to modify the physical appearance/identity of places that in our perception have never changed. Form is modified as it has always been in the past: when new technologies and different needs of material life call for formal modifications. These concepts recur constantly in my way of conceiving architecture, ranging from the scale of the construction detail to the social significance that form acquires in relation to the community, which produces a wide range of possible variations of traditional forms.

Tessere “inattese” in un vecchio mosaico

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“Unexpected” tiles in an old mosaic


Most of the projects of ES-Arch are geographically located in my hometown of Madesimo, an Alpine village in the province of Sondrio (Italy). The small village, located at 1,550 meters above sea level, has a predominantly touristic vocation, both in the summer and winter seasons. Each of the works of the studio aims at rediscovering the relationship with the context, by developing the architectural design in the light of its being part of a wider framework with blurred boundaries. Every little transformation, every project – however limited in size – turns out to be an act of transformation that is visible in the landscape at different levels. All kinds of interventions, such as the re-functionalisation of existing buildings, small extensions and new small constructions, seem to keep trying to shape the narrative of a different landscape. In most cases, the buildings on which work is carried out are ordinary architectural projects that do not determine the character of the landscape. The Alpine area is not only an idyllic environment, but also a place dense with contradictions, mistakes and inconsistencies. The Alpine landscape is a hybrid melting pot of cultures expressing different needs.

Progettare in montagna

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Designing in the mountains


From the architect’s point of view, designing implies the need to develop sensitivity and competence to be able to read the context. This ability allows to transform the environment in continuity with the set of natural, social and cultural aspects that determine the character of a place. In an environment such as the Alps, this process of interpretation acquires even greater significance due to the intensity with which nature and the landscape become determining elements of a project. In an even more evident way, compared to other contexts, Alpine territory and architecture have always been strongly influenced by environmental conditions. This approach to the project requires a phase of analysis of the site in which the territory represents a sort of palimpsest, and the built landscape can be read as a stratification of meanings; each of these meanings is an expression of human needs and aspirations in a given historical moment. The objective underlying this research is to identify the characteristic traits of a context, the ones we might define as absolute and recurrent, so as to make them an integral part of the project and contextualise them with respect to contemporary needs. The works presented here originate from shared themes, developed using an essential architectural language and pursuing the search for harmony between architecture and landscape: paying attention to proportions, details and the choice of materials, and defining the quality of a space, a notion that could be termed “atmosphere”.

Baukultur – Cultura del costruire

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Building culture


The landscape of South Tyrol is characterized by a Baukultur, a building culture of its own, a concept which refers to a recognizable common heritage, capable of having a conscious or unconscious influence on architectural shapes and ideas. Materials, colours, morphology, climate and seasonal changes of this territory are all part of a common legacy and determine human work in a given context. This is a condition meant to last in time, a series of interventions nowadays defined as tradition which strongly unite human work, history and land in a single entity. These expressions constitute a South Tyrolean language, always alive in time yet continuously transforming: authentic expressions from the past are enriched with contemporary interventions. Architecture too is at the same time connected to its past and in evolution. In this sense, it is fair to say that building means to assimilate the history of a certain context to project it towards the future; it means to work with past, present and future to grasp and reveal the identity of the place.


Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press



“Driving the winding Big Sur Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the summer of 2002, we observed how different the coniferous trees on one side of the road were from the other: inland, the trees stood upright and grew with symmetrical monumentality, while the windswept trees along the coast were bent over, deformed by the salty ocean spray and clinging to the impervious cliffs with their tangles of exposed roots. This landscape of difference symbolised an important concept for us: the seed, or archetypal idea, is the same for both trees, however, the specific conditions under which each seed grows forces them to adapt – the seeds are transfigured by their destined place of growth. Ideas in architecture are like seeds: they exist a priori, they sprout and flourish in different places and unexpected contexts throughout the centuries and, regardless of their innate sameness, achieve different outcomes”. This inquiry into the transformative nature of architectural ideas – that are both autonomous and conditioned by the environment – gives an insight into the way architects work and shows how stand-alone architectural ideas feed projects and break down their “otherness” in respect of South Tyrol, while at the same time making the Alpine landscapes of this area their own. Three projects (Ponte di Ghiaccio Mountain Lodge, Fischer House, and the St. Andrew School Complex) epitomise this ambiguous relationship with the site, tracing a series of architectural references, both modern and historical, to describe how these projects came into being without being specific to the “context”.

Zwei Bauten, am Berg und im Tal

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Two buildings, one in the mountains and one in the valley


The Alps consist of mountains and valleys. Phenomenologically and emotionally, the construct of “Alpine architecture” is characterised by the image of a building located in an idyllic mountain setting – regardless of its style. The fact is, however, that architecture in the Alps means primarily building in the valleys. Building in the valleys is usually far less poetic than embedding a building in a complex and idyllic mountain landscape. It entails dealing with scarcity of land, overexploitation and the often-incompatible proximity of transport infrastructures, power lines, residential areas, emission sources and intensive agriculture. These challenges are part of contemporary Alpine architecture. So, what distinguishes Alpine architecture from the rest? In this contribution, the different challenges of building in the Alps are illustrated through two examples from two different locations. The first deals with building in an inner-Alpine side valley and picks up the traces of bygone days that still exist, whereas the second deals with the sustainable management of overexploited territories, characterised by land pressure and conflicts over their use in an inner-Alpine urban area. The two examples show that, although there is no such thing as a homogeneous Alpine architecture, there are specific framework conditions and challenges for building in the Alps that justify the specific categorisation of “Alpine architecture”.

Vsak projekt je lahko priložnost za krepitev skupnosti

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Architectural design: an opportunity to strengthen local communities


The essay describes architectural design as a process to be shared by the local community and highlights the reasons behind this approach. The issue is illustrated by the projects carried out in the village Stara Fužina in Bohinj, and more particularly by the examples of a flat built for a resident and a renovated tourist apartment. The existing village ambiences have taken shape gradually, adapting to the natural environment and to the traditional craftsmanship, skills and values of the local community. In the recent past, Bohinj has changed rapidly to achieve fast development and fulfil new, emerging needs of the community brought about by the tourism industry. The complex procedures that accompany spatial architectural interventions, as well as the emergence of new activities and the changing population structure, have affected the relationship of the community with space significantly. Breaking ties with the environment and the community may cause serious harm to both natural and cultural heritage. At the same time, even the smallest architectural intervention on space may constitute an opportunity to reinforce those ties. We conceive the community as a process (Follett, 1919); any project, therefore, may serve as an opportunity to build and nurture relationships with the local population: a chance not taken is a missed opportunity. Consequently, architectural design can reinforce these ties if it is based on appropriate project solutions and a designing process conceived to spontaneously and informally exchange experiences, knowledge and ideas between architects and the local population. Consequently, an architect’s longterm presence in the local environment of a place facilitates her/his inclusion in the community.

Progettare con il Genius loci

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Designing with the genius loci


The essay describes three design projects which aim to interact specifically with the Alpine context, in Switzerland, in contrast to the undifferentiated and non-specific nature of architecture in the age of globalisation. The Jugendwohnheim Mattini project in Brig enhances the surrounding rural landscape by repurposing a castle as a youth home for the housing and education of adolescents in need. The small baroque castle has undergone conservative renovation; the former barn on its side now houses teaching spaces, and a new building on the other side has been added to provide both common rooms and private bedrooms. The surrounding shared outdoor area is ideal for both leisure and educational activities: they provide an opportunity for socialisation and reintegration through work and care of the land, and through the enjoyment of its products, which translate into regeneration and self-care. The project for a new elderly home in Giornico interacts with the natural landscape of the Leventina Valley, which is narrowed by steep slopes and crossed by the river Ticino. The characteristic reference points used by the designers for the development of the final projects of the elderly home are the Romanesque church of St. Nicholas, marked by precise and rigorous stereometric volumes, and the La Congiunta museum, designed by architect Peter Märkli. The square layout of the elderly home frees up space on the sides and creates a dialogue with the surrounding environment. It extends in height, with a portico on the ground floor and a terrace on the top floor covering the entire perimeter of the building. Inside, the common rooms recall the density of villages, while the bedrooms offer domestic intimacy. Pathways and panoramic viewpoints overlook the surrounding landscape, with its natural and cultural values, representing the scenery of everyday life and the memory of the elderly. Thanks to the restoration of the Motto bridge over river Brenno, the infrastructure reconnects to the landscape, linking the village church to the oratory of the cemetery. The bridge re-establishes a continuity between anthropic artefacts, historical values, and the river landscape.

Zeitlose Architekturen

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Timeless architectures


The architecture of Markus Wespi, Jérôme de Meuron and Luca Romeo generally seeks a close connection to its surroundings and the local building culture; the architects look for clues in the existing culture and tradition. They are interested in the combination of traditional and modern elements, which together form a new unity and push the historical development forward. In their projects, they seek to achieve a certain timelessness; the combination of traditional materials with new elements creates a natural self-evidence that integrates the familiar and the new, thus being able to continue to develop and survive in the future. In mountainous and sloping locations, buildings have an enormous impact on the landscape and should therefore be integrated carefully with it in both form and materials, rather than simply benefitting from it thanks to large viewing windows. We like the concept of a new building which seems to have been there for a long time, whose natural materials have developed a patina which makes them even more beautiful. We are particularly fascinated by its atmosphere, light and shadow.

Zwischen regionalem und persönlichem Kontext: die Arbeit von Bernardo Bader

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Between regional and personal context: the work of Bernardo Bader


Between regional and personal context: the work of Bernardo Bader The Austrian Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest) is a region dear to Bernardo Bader because of both personal and cultural reasons, often used as reference in his work. His familiarity with the region creates an understanding of and a commitment to the needs of the local population and the requirements of everyday life, to which his office provides architectural answers. The Bregenzerwald is well known for its craftsmanship: tried and trusted methods are held in high regard – they convey a sense of tradition, combined with a spirit of experimentation and innovation. In his architecture, Bernardo Bader transforms the impulse to achieve perfect craftsmanship through a methodological and conceptual openness towards workmanship. His is a true “stance”, i.e., an attitude towards people and things. Bernardo Bader’s stance is sincere and authentic. It relates to the regional and personal context – the context of the village, the neighbourhood, the living conditions of the users, the surroundings, – and the underlying cultural, political and economic conditions. At the same time, his stance goes beyond, it dares to take a broader perspective in order to create buildings that are meant to last. The aim of his architectural study is to produce elements for everyday use that are long-lasting, thereby unpretentiously replacing the term “sustainability”, eventually creating an atmosphere, a mood, a form of echo. The aim of Bernardo Bader’s architecture is to produce spaces that create an echo, that inspire our senses – and through our senses, our minds and behaviour. Each decision matches a gesture. These individual decisions are considerate and careful in producing a coherent unity with a lightness that shows in its single elements and as a whole. Working together means that high quality standards are expected, but also that the effort, knowledge and responsibility of many individuals is needed. However, cooperation is also the basis for further development and the establishment of a culture of criticism that is constructive rather than self-serving. Better solutions are created when colleagues exchange ideas: this makes them invaluable and a source of joy for all participants, including clients, users and the overall building culture.

Architektur als Chance. Bauen neu denken

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Architecture as an opportunity: rethinking construction


In the Alpine valleys, life is under pressure. Since very few children live in these areas, schools in small towns such as Vrin in the Lumnezia valley (Grisons, Switzerland) are closing, and infrastructures and public life are more and more concentrated in larger centres. Moreover, communities behave differently nowadays: people live and move around the whole valley, and old villages are becoming residential areas. While most of the time architecture in urban areas is driven by the investors’ interest, things are different in the mountains. In the Alps, where statistics and the market are not leading criteria for constructing new buildings, architects can explore new directions and think about innovative and specific solutions that may accompany the development of living societies. The recent works by Gion A. Caminada in Valendas and Almens, the buildings by Capaul & Blumenthal or the architecture projects by Men Duri Arquint in Chur are but a few examples of a different way of looking at the opportunities that architecture may offer to Alpine communities.

Ascoltare il territorio

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Listening to the territory


The recent history of urban development in Italy largely stems from a policy – here intended as a set of actions and strategies of administrators, entrepreneurs and experts – which has been incapable of planning transformations and, therefore, adopting a shared and far-sighted approach to development. The urban regeneration of metropolitan areas and their consequent demographic and economic development (70% of the population and 80% of GDP are concentrated in these areas) have often penalised internal areas such as the Alps and Apennines. Some peculiar experiences, including the regeneration of the village of Ostana (Cuneo), the project carried out in Contrada Bricconi (Bergamo), or even the activities of the association Dolomiti Contemporanee (Belluno) – just to mention a few interesting cases in the Italian Alps, – show that the understanding of and care for a unique territory are the pillars on which any informed political, administrative, architectural or territorial project should be based. This approach is all the more important in the framework of those events envisaging the construction of large infrastructures (such as the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan-Cortina). After these events, such infrastructures are often abandoned because they are useless for the territory, economically unsustainable in the long-term, and not shared with the local community. In this perspective, the work of the association Architetti Arco Alpino (Alpine Arc Architects), whose activities range from architecture awards to photographic surveys, conferences and publications, aims to understand the complexity of mountain areas and to promote architectural quality. In this framework, they have successfully shown how the problems are often the same regardless of geographical and cultural distances. The solution to these problems is to be found primarily in the act of listening to the

Nuove frontiere per il progetto nelle Alpi centrali e orientali

Facendo seguito al primo numero della Nuova Serie, che proponeva una riflessione su “Regionalità e produzione architettonica contemporanea” estesa al territorio al- pino europeo a partire da analisi e interpretazioni a base regionale, in questo nume- ro di ArchAlp si approfondiscono alcuni episodi recenti di architettura nelle aree del- le Alpi centrali e orientali (Lombardia, Ticino, Grigioni, Vorarlberg, Tirolo, Sudtirolo, Trentino, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Slovenia), attraverso un racconto basato sull’illustra- zione di progetti realizzati recentemente.

La scelta di concentrarsi sulle Alpi centrali e orientali – tenendo quindi assieme con- testi anche molto diversi dal punto di vista storico, socio-economico e culturale – nasce dalla volontà di raccontare la palingenesi contemporanea di territori in cui la cultura architettonica ha giocato un ruolo di primo piano nello sviluppo locale e re- gionale, e in cui si è verificata una sorta di cortocircuitazione virtuosa tra la produ- zione edilizia ed il rafforzamento culturale e socio-economico dei contesti specifici. Si pensi a ciò che è accaduto ad esempio nei Grigioni, in Sudtirolo o in Trentino, dove l’architettura è diventata uno dei temi chiave attorno a cui si è costruita un’i- dea di sviluppo locale che rimetteva in discussione le tradizionali modalità di inte- razione tra centri urbani e periferie, attraverso la proposizione di modelli “regionali” radicati sul territorio.

A questo si aggiunge inoltre, a partire già dagli anni Novanta, un graduale conso- lidamento di tematiche innovative di carattere tecnologico e ambientale, come ad esempio l’efficientamento energetico degli edifici, che si sono fatti vettori di diffu- sione di un’idea contemporanea di nuova architettura in grado di farsi portatrice di istanze di sostenibilità e di nuovo rapporto con l’ambiente ed il territorio.

In alcuni contesti in cui la cultura architettonica moderna era già piuttosto vigoro- sa, come ad esempio in Ticino o nei Grigioni, grazie alla presenza di “scuole” forti su temi di un rivisitato modernismo critico, vi erano già le basi per un suo concre- to radicamento ed evoluzione. In altri contesti invece, come ad esempio il Vorarl- berg, l’architettura contemporanea si è fatta spazio caratterizzandosi come tassel- lo fondamentale di una filiera produttiva che, come quella del legno, si è tradotta in una ricerca strutturale e figurativo-formale basata sull’impiego costruttivo di mate- riali locali.

In altri luoghi ancora, come sta succedendo recentemente in Slovenia, in Friuli Ve- nezia Giulia o in Lombardia, la contemporaneità si può cogliere nelle pratiche di risi- gnificazione del patrimonio costruito, le quali giocano un ruolo primario nei proces- si di rigenerazione locale e di innovazione sociale, culturale ed economica.

Un aspetto centrale rimane altresì quello della priorità assegnata agli aspetti ma- terici e tettonici dell’architettura. Questa sembra muovere in particolare dalla risco- perta del senso di concretezza e di realismo insito nella natura e nella cultura alpina, attraverso la ricerca di una sobrietà e di un minimalismo basato sull’essenzialità, sulla matericità, sulla reinterpretazione dei luoghi e dei contesti.

Una ricerca della qualità degli interventi che muove dunque dalla loro propensione alla “relazionalità” e che discende, come scritto anche da Peter Zumthor, dalla capa- cità del “nuovo” di instaurare un significativo rapporto di tensione con la preesisten- za. Aspetti che non a caso trovano nella “Stimmung”, più volte citata dai progettisti presenti in questo numero, la naturale reinterpretazione poetica di questa attitudine pragmatica alle sfide poste dall’abitare nel contesto montano.

Ecco allora come approcci e filosofie che muovono dalle tradizioni, dalle culture del passato, dal palinsesto del territorio – e innovazioni introdotte attraverso nuove fi- gurazioni, nuovi materiali, nuove tecniche – trovino nell’architettura contemporanea un luogo di sintesi in cui si manifestano inedite connotazioni formali e costruttive.


Al contempo non va dimenticato che all’afflato innovatore di questa significativa sperimentazione progettuale degli ultimi vent’anni si è affiancata una sistematica azione di ricerca scientifica e di divulgazione, anche attraverso pubblicazioni e ri- viste dedicate (pensiamo ad esempio a Turris Babel), che da un lato ha prodotto una cultura progettuale più attenta alle questioni emergenti del territorio alpino, e dall’altra ha creato occasioni di confronto sempre più serrate sui temi dell’abita- re, coinvolgendo anche amministratori, politici, funzionari di diverse realtà alpine. Pensiamo all’attività di promozione culturale dell’architettura fatta da istituzioni come università, centri di ricerca che hanno tra i loro obiettivi proprio la divulga- zione della cultura costruttiva e insediativa dei contesti locali. Tra questi l’EURAC di Bolzano, il Circolo Trentino per l’Architettura contemporanea CITRAC, l’associa- zione Architetti Arco Alpino, l’associazione ALPES, il Voralberg Architektur Institut – VAI, l’Architektur und Tirol – aut, tutti gli ordini professionali che attraverso le fon- dazioni (come ad esempio la Fondazione Architettura Belluno Dolomiti o la Fon- dazione Architettura Alto Adige per citarne alcune) promuovono nuovi sguardi sul patrimonio costruito di questi territori.

Ruolo centrale hanno inoltre i premi di architettura che, insieme ai concorsi di pro- gettazione di natura pubblica e anche privata, mostrano un importante mutamen- to di sensibilità verso lo spazio costruito, necessario per sviluppare e dare conti- nuità a progetti virtuosi.

Pensiamo al pionieristico «Neues Bauen in den Alpen», riconoscimento promos- so da Sesto Cultura (Val Pusteria, Bolzano) tra il 1992 e il 1999, a «Constructive Alps» che interessa l’intero comprensorio alpino, al premio promosso dall’associa- zione «Architetti Arco Alpino», a quello triennale «Fare Paesaggio» promosso dal- la Step – Scuola per il governo del territorio e del paesaggio e dalla Provincia auto- noma di Trento, ed infine a «Costruire il Trentino» del CITRAC giunto nel 2018 alla sesta edizione.

Ma c’è ancora dell’altro. Quella che presentiamo nelle pagine seguenti non è solo una rassegna di architetture costruite in anni recenti in questi territori, è anche e soprattutto la testimonianza di professionisti che hanno scelto di basare la pro- pria attività nel contesto montano, forti delle reti lunghe della formazione acca- demica e delle esperienze professionali internazionali. Una raccolta di idee di ar- chitettura, di modi di esplorare i luoghi, di studiare le condizioni del passato, di interpretare il cambiamento e le ragioni della contemporaneità.

Gli architetti coinvolti hanno espresso la propria posizione sul significato del co- struire oggi in montagna e nel proprio territorio, senza limitarsi a questioni me- ramente formali ed estetiche, illustrando con parole e opere realizzate il proprio approccio progettuale, sempre attraverso una visione critica, disincantata e con- sapevole, che riflette sulle molteplici contraddizioni del mondo alpino: tradizione e contemporaneità, natura e artificio, abbandono e pressione antropica, rarefazio- ne e densità.

Si toccano così una serie di tematiche che riguardano le ragioni intime delle scel- te progettuali (spaziali, distributive, costruttive, tecniche), l’interazione e la dialet- tica con l’ambiente, il territorio, il paesaggio, la sostenibilità, o ancora le relazioni con la comunità ed il contesto socioeconomico e culturale locale, facendo emer- gere le peculiarità dell’operare architettonico in ambiente alpino (committenze pri- vate, opere pubbliche, concorsi, iniziative di sviluppo locale, mutazioni delle for- me del turismo). Un approccio articolato e riflessivo che ci pare importante per gli anni non facili che ci aspettano


New frontiers for the project in the central and eastern Alps

Following the first issue of the New Series, which proposed a reflection on “Re- gionalism and contemporary architectural production” and also covered the European Alpine territory – starting from region-based analyses and interpre- tations, – this fifth issue analyses some recent architectural projects in the Cen- tral and Eastern Alps (Lombardy, Ticino, Grisons, Vorarlberg, Tyrol and South Tyrol, Trentino, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia) through a narration illustrating re- cently built architectures.

The choice to focus on Central and Eastern Alps, thus taking into consideration very different historical, socio-economic and cultural contexts, stems from the desire to describe the contemporary palingenesis of territories where architec- tural culture has played a crucial role in the local and regional development, and where a sort of virtuous short circuit has occurred in the relationship between contemporary construction and cultural and socio-economic development.

A good example of this phenomenon may be found in the Grisons, South Tyrol or Trentino, where architecture has become one of the key topics around which an idea of local development has developed: by proposing “regional” models embedded in the territory, it has questioned the traditional modes of interaction between urban centres and peripheries.

Moreover, since the nineties, there has been a gradual strengthening of innova- tive technological and environmental issues, such as energy efficiency in build- ings, which nowadays have promoted the idea of a new kind of architecture which is capable of promoting initiatives for sustainability and a renewed rela- tionship with the environment and the territory.

In some of the contexts where modern architectural culture was already rath- er vigorous, such as in Ticino or the Grisons – where there was a strong school of thought based on a revisited critical modernism, – there was a basis for its tangible taking root and evolving. In other contexts, such as Voralberg, contem- porary architecture has emerged as an essential component of a production process which, like the timber industry, evolved into structural and figurative formal research based on the use of local materials in construction. In other areas, such as Slovenia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, or Lombardy, contemporaneity is visible in the re-signification practices of the built heritage that play a primary role in the processes of local regeneration and of social, cultural and econom- ic innovation.

Prioritising the tectonic and material aspects of architecture continues to be a key element of these processes. This particularly stems from the re-discovery of a sense of concreteness and realism, intrinsic in Alpine nature and culture, through the search for sobriety and minimalism which relies on the essential, on materiality, and on the reinterpretation of places and contexts. Such interest in the quality of the projects is driven by their propensity to relate to each oth- er and derives, as Peter Zumthor also affirmed, from the ability of the “new” to establish a meaningful relationship of tension with the pre-existing. These as- pects may be found in the Stimmung, mentioned several times by some of the architects in this issue, which refers to the natural poetic reinterpretation of their pragmatic attitude in dealing with the challenges of living in the mountains. Therefore, in contemporary architecture, approaches and philosophies that come from traditions, past cultures and the territorial palimpsest (and also from the innovations brought about by new representations, materials and techniques) find an opportunity for convergence in which one can find unprec- edented formal and constructive connotations.

At the same time, it should not be forgotten that the drive for innovation observed during the period of significant experimentation in design of the last twenty years has been accompanied by systematic scientific research and dissemination, also thanks to papers and specialised journals, such as Turris Babel in South Tyrol. This link has been producing, on the one hand, a design culture that is more con- scious of the emerging issues of the Alpine territory and, on the other, it has been creating numerous opportunities for debate on the topic of inhabiting the moun- tains. Such opportunities also involve local administrators, politicians and elect- ed officials of the various Alpine areas.

Several cultural promotion activities connected to architecture have been carried out by universities and research centres, as one of their aims is the dissemination of the building and settlement cultures of their local contexts. Among these enti- ties, we should mention the EURAC in Bolzano, the Circolo Trentino per l’Architet- tura Contemporanea – CITRAC (Trentino Club for Contemporary Architecture), the Architetti Arco Alpino association, the ALPES association, the VAI (Voralberg Ar- chitektur Institut), aut (architektur und tirol), and all the professional associations that promote new perspectives on the built heritage of these territories through foundations (e.g. the Fondazione Architettura Belluno Dolomiti or the Fondazione Architettura Alto Adige, to name but a few).

Architectural prizes and public and private design competitions also play a rele- vant role and show an important increase in the sensibility towards the built space, which is necessary to develop and pursue virtuous projects. Among these awards, we should mention the pioneering “Neues Bauen in den Alpen”, promoted by Sesto Cultura (Puster Valley, Bolzano) between 1992 and 1999, “Constructive Alps” that targets the entire Alpine region, “Fare Paesaggio” promoted every three years by the Scuola per il governo del territorio e del paesaggio – Step (School for the govern- ment of the territory and the landscape) and by the Autonomous Province of Tren- to, and “Costruire il Trentino” by CITRAC, which celebrated its 6th edition in 2018.

That is why the next pages are not merely a collection of architectures built in these territories in recent years, but also and above all the testimony of several professionals who have chosen to carry out their work in the mountain context, drawing on their academic backgrounds and international work experiences. It is a collection of architectural ideas, ways of exploring places, studying past cir- cumstances, interpreting change and the reasons behind contemporaneity.

The architects involved in this issue express their opinion on the meaning of build- ing in mountain areas, which are often also their territory of origin, without focus- ing exclusively on formal and aesthetic issues. Instead, they illustrate their design approach through their ideas and works, by using a critical, disenchanted and in- formed point of view. They reflect on the many contradictions of the Alpine world, on the relationship between traditions and contemporaneity, nature and artifice, abandonment and human pressure, rarefaction and density. A series of topics are addressed, such as the profound reasons behind some design choices (wheth- er spatial, distributive, constructive or technical), and the interaction and dialogue with the environment, territory, landscape, sustainability, or even the relationship with local communities and the socio-economic and cultural context. These topics bring out the peculiarities of designing architectural projects in the Alps (among others, private clients, public works, competitions, local development initiatives, and changes in the forms of tourism are mentioned). Ours is an extensive and thought-out approach that we consider crucial for the challenging times ahead.

Modernità discreta: Loos costruisce in montagna

Discreet modernity: Loos builds in the mountains

The country house that Adolf Loos designed for Paul Khuner in Payerbach represents one of his most brilliant achievements, complementary to the more famous Villa Müller in Prague. These two buildings, both completed in 1930, constitute a sort of legacy summarizing Loos’ visions and architectural principles. The country house is particularly significant in regard to the apparently contradictory relationship between modernity and tradition. Furthermore, the building reveals a quieter approach to the Raumplan, thanks to the adoption of a clear typological figure: the double-height central space with an upper-level distribution gallery. In this work, Loos applies the principles presented in his seminal text “Architecture”, where he criticized the incapacity of a villa designed by an architect of integrating the idyllic and peaceful character of a mountain valley. In this perspective, the Khuner house was a unique occasion for Loos to build in a completely new context, far away from the typical urban situations where he was accustomed to working. The pitched roof, the wooden construction and the general shape of the building are alien to Loos’ ideas. Nevertheless, they are so carefully defined and their integration in the landscape is so calm that one could have the impression of looking at a traditional mountain building. Upon careful observation, one discovers that many elements do not correspond to a vernacular vocabulary, but rather produce a series of slight dissimilarities that demonstrate how modernity can affirm its values in a discreet way.


Le case di Lois Welzenbacher, dispositivi che reinventano lo spazio alpino

The houses of Lois Welzenbacher, devices that reinvent the Alpine space

As an exponent of that “Tyrolean” generation of architects that in the Germanspeaking central-eastern Alps will be decisive in the specific declination of the themes of architectural modernity within the mountain context, Lois Welzenbacher realizes, between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, a series of houses and villas that reinvent the relationship between architecture and Alpine environment in completely new and inaugural terms. The Buchroithner house built in 1928-30 in Zell am See, the Rosenbauer house built in 1929-30 in Linz, and the Buchroithner house built in 1932 again in Zell am See establish a new way of relating to the space and to the Alpine landscape: they incorporate the mountain landscape, and at the same time they transform and change in relation to the topographic morphology of the site, giving life to an architecture that builds a relational dialectic with its surroundings in a completely new way. In this respect, the works of Lois Welzenbacher represent a decisive threshold in the conceptualization of the construction in the Alps.

Is there an autochthonous “Tyrolean Modernism”?

This article examines, on the basis of two residential buildings by Franz Baumann, the status of the postulate of an autochthonous “Tyrolean Modernism”. Often mentioned together, five architects are among the main representatives of classical modernism in the Austrian province of Tyrol: Clemens Holzmeister, Lois Welzenbacher, Theodor Prachensky, Franz Baumann and Sigfried Mazagg. Even if they did not form a close circle because of their life paths, there is a strong link between them, mostly in their artistic background and their way of representing architecture. Architecture was a detour from a first aim to pursue an artistic career for all of them, with the exception of Welzenbacher. Architects like Franz Baumann not only “modernized” well-known typologies, but also regionalized elementary components of internationally widespread building traditions. The “Tyrolean Modernism” was repeatedly regarded as an “autochthonous” movement, even if the regional scene was not detached at all from the international development. The alpine environment, in particular, offered a framework of conditions that challenged the architects to top performance. They were able to plan for locations that were uncharted territory in many respects: exposed in the mountains or high mountain areas. In this context, the architects of “Tyrolean Modernism” benefited from their painterly- trained eye for the morphology of Alpine landscapes.


Wie baue ich mein Haus? Edoardo Gellner e il dilemma dell’architetto

Wie baue ich mein Haus? Edoardo Gellner and the architect’s dilemma

To be able to resist to the most folkloristic calls of the mountain environment, one must be a cultured architect, and Gellner with his works has certainly proven to be one. In the “Casa Menardi”, his first project, built in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1947, he proves to be an attentive connoisseur of the valley’s traditional architecture, by defining the way in which the building relates to the land and to the landscape. Later, with the “Palazzo Poste/Telve”, built for the 1956 Winter Olympics, Gellner renewed the tradition of old local houses by instilling them with the language of modernity. To further understand why we should consider Gellner a milestone in the history of alpine architecture, we need to look very closely at “Ca’ del Cembro”, his home and studio, built in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1951. Inside his home, Gellner seems to be willing to transfer and inculcate all his past experience, his studies on rural architecture and his wish to invent a new alpine architecture. This building becomes the prototype from which he will then develop all of his architecture: the concept of continuous space, the relationship between interior and exterior, the mixture of traditional and modern materials, the concept of integrated furniture generating all the surrounding space. All these experiences will lead the architect, a few years later, to develop the project of the “Villaggio di Borca di Cadore” in which he will be able to realize a work of “total architecture” with the creation of a new inhabited and animated landscape, made of architecture and living spaces.

La Rinascita. L’opera di Bruno Morassutti a San Martino di Castrozza nell’alveo del suo tempo

The rebirth. The work of Bruno Morassutti in San Martino di Castrozza within the fold of his time

The twin houses of San Martino di Castrozza constitute the beginning of an activity that led Bruno Morassutti to engage with the Alpine theme throughout his activity: at the beginning there were the two small, twin houses (1954-1957), then he moved on to a large family holiday home (1957-1958), both with Angelo Mangiarotti, and then he experimented with the “Fontanelle” in the 1960s. The traditional stylistic features in the houses of San Martino find a balance, a grace and an elegance that, over sixty years later, do not cease to convince. The restoration of San Martino is measured in a balanced relationship between empty and full, in continuity with the elements that characterize the alpine architecture and the wise use of the materials offered by the territory: wood and stone. The two buildings, identical but individually distinct, thanks to two simple movements of flanking and staggering, are characterized by a solid stone masonry that draws two L-shaped walls. The masonry, strongly anchored to the ground, is counterbalanced towards the valley by a large window in wood and glass that spreads over two levels and guarantees lighting and direct views of the surrounding landscape from the living area. The link with the rural architecture of the area is well summarized, in addition to the materials, by the typologically relevant elements including the traditional symmetrical pitched roof with the structural warp in fir trunks. The roof, detached from the perimeter walls, is supported by wooden columns and partitions, a refined compositional choice that generates an unusual glass surface.

«Ma sono anche artisti». La casa Clerici di Asnago e Vender a Chiesa in Valmalenco, 1940-41

«But they are also artists». The Clerici house of Asnago and Vender in Chiesa Valmalenco,

This article investigates the critical fortune of the Clerici house, a small building built by the architects Asnago and Vender in Chiesa, in Valmalenco, between 1940 and 1941. Despite its location on the outskirts and its apparent remoteness, this type of architecture immediately found the widespread favor of the public, rightly entering the domain of emblematic modern architectures of that season, as well as of the personal poetic of the authors. The analysis of the house’s project filed for the application for planning permission seeks to investigate the critical judgements expressed by the main critics of Asnago’s and Vender’s work on the one hand, and to verify the possible influence of the debate on the rural and alpine house in the first half on the 20th century and of the technical and specialized public architecture between the 1930s and the 1950s on the other. Finally, the peculiar poetic of the architects, eulogized in the project of the house, is illustrated through the comparison with other styles of architecture and with some furnishings by Asnago and Vender in the years prior to the construction of the Clerici house.

2019 N. 3

Le case di Pietro Lingeri sull’Isola Comacina

The houses of Pietro Lingeri on the Comacina Island

After a long period of neglect, a restoration work completed in 2010 brought the three artist houses on the Comacina Island back to the function for which they were born: to host artists in a charming location, surrounded by nature and silence. In 1917 the island came into possession of the King of Belgium, and then of the Italian State. The houses designed by Pietro Lingeri were built after the failure of more ambitious plans for the creation of an artists’ colony. Born in Bolvedro di Tremezzo, Lingeri graduated from the Academy of Brera, the institution entrusted with the management of the island. Commissioned in the first months of 1933, his original designs for a hotel and seven houses for Italian artists and four for Belgian artists were rejected. Therefore, he conceived three simple small villas combining local materials and traditional construction techniques with a modern vocabulary. The article traces the history of the houses, completed at the end of 1940 by one of the most important architects of Italian Rationalism.

Quando il Moderno cerca radici. Casa Balmelli di Tita Carloni e Luigi Camenisch

When the Modern puts down roots. Casa Balmelli of Tita Carloni and Luigi Camenisch

The article reconstructs the genesis of Casa Balmelli, designed and built in Rovio (Canton Ticino) in 1956-1957 by Tita Carloni and Luigi Camenisch. Among Carloni’s first works in Ticino after the completion of his studies at the ETH Zurich, Casa Balmelli has often been presented as an example of the current of Organic Architecture that developed in Ticino in the 1950s and saw a particularly flourishing phase in the following decade. However, while the house certainly embodies organic features by aiming at a perfect integration with its surroundings through the use of natural materials and the geometric reinterpretation of the landforms of its setting, its internal spatial qualities have little to do, for instance, with Wrightian models. Rather, the ordering function attributed to geometry is its most notable quality and is a common denominator of the research conducted in Ticino on the organic architecture front: a geometry that relates to the characteristics of the site and seeks a certain degree of formal abstraction.


Geometria “imperfetta”: Luigi Vietti, villa La Roccia a Cannobio

“Imperfect” geometry: Luigi Vietti, Villa La Roccia in Cannobio

The article reviews the thought and work of Luigi Vietti (leading exponent of Italian Rationalism, then author of numerous domestic architectures, especially in Sardinia and on the Alps), through the presentation of one of his most important projects: the Villa La Roccia in Cannobio on the Lago Maggiore, completed in 1936. This project is based on a previous model, the “Villa su Roccia a Sperone”, designed with a promotional target in mind. The latter was published in 1932 on «Domus Magazine » and was exposed in several Rational Architecture events. Between 1930 and 1936 he develops a new concept of architecture in relation to the site by means of topological reasoning. This article uses critical interpretation to highlight that, in Vietti’s work, his interest in emerging architecture (shown by his participation in major founding events in the period between the Two World Wars) and the link to tradition, both contextual and disciplinary, manage to coexist in an often exemplary way. In Villa La Roccia, the character of the architecture as a whole and its details are remodeled to adapt to the rocky spur of Punta d’Amore. This makes the work better merge and blend with the surroundings. Even the interiors are recalibrated in relation to the site and domestic activities, emphasizing the precious definition of details and devoting particular attention to the perceptive-emotional factors of life within it.

Mirare al paesaggio. La casa Cattaneo di Carlo Mollino sull’altopiano di Agra

Aim for the landscape. The Cattaneo house by Carlo Mollino on the Agra plateau

In 1952, Carlo Mollino was entrusted by Luigi Cattaneo, an entrepreneur from Milan, with the project of a villa to be built on a huge site on the plateau of Agra, near Luino. The challenge was taken up by the architect, who imagined an extraordinary approach: the architecture had to be anchored to the ground, thanks to a powerful embankment, and then stretched out into the landscape, thanks to an exceptional overhang that allowed it to embrace an extraordinary landscape, made up of the lake with the surrounding mountains. Starting from this intuition, which became evident from the very first sketches of the project, the history of Casa Cattaneo in Agra became the story of a difficult relationship and, often, of the explicit conflicts between an architect who, at all costs, wanted to preserve the wholeness of his original idea, expressed through drawings considered irreplaceable, and a client who, instead, tried to overcome delays and misunderstandings by entrusting the execution of the project to others.

La “nave” che salpa verso il paesaggio alpino: villa Borsotti a Balme

The “ship” that sets sail for the alpine landscape: Villa Borsotti in Balme

The project for Villa Borsotti, whose construction ended in 1932, is the result of a collaboration between the architect Umberto Cuzzi and the artist Gigi Chessa, who built this small house at the edge of the village of Balme in Val d’Ala di Lanzo, in the area surrounding Turin. The essay focuses on the genesis of the project, with reference to the cultural and professional context within which the protagonists have worked. In terms of the relationship between the external aspect and its location in the Alpine context, the building seems to be characterized by the presence of two apparently opposite tendencies. On the one hand, the building looks for a contextualization in the mountain landscape through the declination in local key of a rationalist language, with a modern use of local dialect, composed of “lemmas” from the Alpine building tradition (stone masonry, wooden infill, bipartition between stone basement and wooden upper floor, etc.). At the same time, thanks to the bending configuration of the plan and the ribbon window, the surrounding environment also “enters” the house and becomes an integral part of it. On the other, the house seems to pursue the effect of alienation from the context through the conscious research of a formal autonomy with which the object “lands” in the natural framework of the valley. Another interesting trait of the house is the treatment of interiors according to the idea of configuring a wrap-around environment in which architecture and interior design are strongly intertwined.


L’art de vivre en montagne, selon Charlotte Perriand

The art of mountain living, according to Charlotte Perriand

Passionate about skiing and alpinism, the architect and designer Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) developed numerous projects for loisirs and the mountain landscape over the course of her career. Her major projects in the years 1960 to 1980, such as her chalet in Méribel and the ski resorts of Les Arcs 1600 and 1800, owe their foundations to the research that she carried out in the 1930s. The designs of this pioneer illustrate a way of living in harmony with nature and demonstrate how advanced her thinking was. Recognized as remarkable contemporary architecture, her designs remain extremely comfortable to live in today.

Case della modernità alpina. Spazi inaugurali di apertura, sperimentazione, sedimentazione

Houses of Alpine modernity. Inaugural spaces of openness, experimentation, sedimentation

Why the need, in some way the urgency, of a historically retrospective number of «ArchAlp» magazine dedicated to the houses of Alpine modernity? The intent of this issue is to investigate the relationship between twentieth century modernity and contemporaneity in terms of breaks and novelties, of continuity and discontinuity, of shooting, variations and implementations, not just under the formal and linguistic aspect. In other words, are there points of interaction, long lasting red threads between the architectural vision of Lois Welzenbacher, Charlotte Perriand, Carlo Mollino, and that of Peter Zumthor, Gion A. Caminada, Bernardo Bader? It is basically a way to understand the existence of more or less long trajectories in the way architecture has set the critical and cultural field of mountain construction, recognizing differences and specificities. Although these are generally well-known projects, the works published in this issue of «ArchAlp» are not uniformly known in the territories that refer to the Alpine space. Hence the importance of gathering together a series of architectures that have had the potential for prototypes in order to submit them to a general and comparative view. Even in the absence of perhaps direct subsidiaries, the architectures presented in these pages represent an extraordinary patrimony of design moves and strategies which, through the internalization of experiences, deeply influenced the formation and determination of the contemporary architectural research field in the Alpine environment.


Alcuni prototipi abitativi elaborati tra gli anni Venti e gli anni Sessanta del Novecento sono stati fondamentali nel mettere a punto un’idea moderna dell’abitare in montagna e la loro influenza si riverbera fino a oggi. In generale si può affermare che, insieme ad altri temi come gli sporthotel o i sanatori e le colonie, la casa in montagna costituisce uno dei terreni privilegiati per le sperimentazioni della nuova architettura moderna, le quali, nella dialettica con lo spazio alpino, assumono declinazioni al contempo molteplici e specifiche. Come ha scritto lo storico dell’architettura Fulvio Irace, il progetto della casa montana permette innanzitutto l’esaltazione di quella «ricerca sull’oggetto isolato nel paesaggio che costituì momento rilevante dell’intero razionalismo europeo». Già solamente intorno a questo nodo – l’incontro tra le forme geometriche dell’architettura e la morfologia organica e transcalare dell’ambiente alpino – prendono corpo una serie di ipotesi e concettualizzazioni che mostrano la ricchezza e lo spessore delle sperimentazioni.
Ma oltre al tema della dialettica tra oggetto architettonico e paesaggio alpino e tra interno ed esterno, sono molti i terreni attraversati dalla ricerca progettuale sulla casa montana dai moderni: la costruzione, le tecniche, la sperimentazione dei nuovi materiali, i cantieri in condizioni talvolta difficili. Pensiamo inoltre al rapporto con la storia, con le tipologie e le figurazioni tradizionali, o ancora con le tecnologie ed i materiali locali, così come all’introduzione
di nuove modalità di abitare e consumare la montagna. L’obiettivo di questo numero è indagare le forme con cui l’architettura del Novecento prova a reinventare il suo rapporto con i diversi aspetti della montagna, dal paesaggio alpino alle tradizioni locali, dalla natura alle tecniche, dalle nuove forme di turismo ai modelli culturali e sociali.
I saggi contenuti nel volume illustrano alcune architetture conosciute e altre meno conosciute ma comunque fortemente emblematiche del periodo studiato, ricostruendone la contestualizzazione storico-sociale in rapporto al periodo, al costume e alla cultura dell’epoca, il ruolo della committenza, gli immaginari ed i riferimenti culturali dei progettisti. Accanto a queste letture viene inoltre messo l’accento sugli specifici dispositivi progettuali sviluppati, evidenziando per ogni edificio il rapporto tra interno ed esterno, la relazione con il paesaggio, la tettonica, l’assetto distributivo e l’articolazione degli spazi, la morfologia degli involucri e delle coperture, le tecniche costruttive, i materiali, e mettendo in relazione questi aspetti con le ragioni culturali sottese. Gli esempi studiati danno conto della profondità di questo patrimonio di sperimentazioni e di modelli che – attraverso sedimentazioni e stratificazioni – costituisce uno straordinario bacino di segni, linguaggi, atteggiamenti e approcci, che è ancora oggi un riferimento fondamentale per il progetto contemporaneo nel contesto alpino.

Some housing prototypes developed between the 1920s and 1960s have been fundamental in developing a modern idea of living in the mountains; their influence reverberates until today. Along with other topics such as sport hotels, sanatoriums or colonies, we can say that, in general, mountain houses represent one of the privileged grounds
for experimenting with new modern architecture. Experimentations which, in dialectic with the Alpine space, take on multiple and specific declinations. As the architectural historian Fulvio Irace wrote, first of all the project of the
mountain house allows the exaltation of that «research on the isolated object in the landscape that represented an important moment of the whole European rationalism». A series of hypotheses and conceptualizations take shape even just around this one point – the encounter between the geometric forms of architecture and the organic and transcalar morphology of the Alpine environment – showing the richness and depth of these experimentations. However, in addition to the dialectic between architectural object and Alpine landscape and between the inside and outside, the moderns have crossed many lands within the design research on the mountain house: construction, techniques, experimentation with new materials, construction sites in sometimes difficult conditions. We can also mention the connection with history, with traditional typologies and representations, or yet with local technologies and materials, as well as with the introduction of new ways of living and consuming in the mountains. The aim of this issue is to investigate the multiple forms whereby 20th century architecture tries to reinvent its relationship with the different aspects of the mountain: from the alpine landscape to local traditions, from nature to techniques, from new forms of tourism to cultural and social models. The essays in this volume show both well-known and less famous architectures;
however, all of them are strongly emblematic of these years, as they piece together the historical and social context with the time, habits and culture, the role of the client and imaginaries and the cultural references of the designers.
Beside these interpretations, a strong emphasis is also put on the specific design devices developed in this period, highlighting, for every single building, the inside-outside connection, the relationship with landscape, tectonic,
shaping of the space and distribution structure , morphology of envelopes and rooftops, building techniques, materials, and relating all these aspects together with the underlying cultural arguments. The instances analyzed in «ArchAlp» n. 3, show how deeply-rooted is this heritage of experimentations and models which – through a series of layers and
stratifications – constitutes an extraordinary collection of signs, languages, attitudes and approaches that are still considered to be fundamental references for the contemporary project in the Alpine context.



Riusi radicali. Soldati, sirene, deflagrazioni

Radical reuse. Soldiers, mermaids, deflagrations

Reuse is a process that deals not only with objects, architectures and territories, but also with images and collective perception. It goes beyond the physical reality and produces a space having less delimited meanings, more difficult to be defined because of its immateriality, although not less necessary. Montage, giving new meanings to images from archives, has been since long an artistic methodology used for movies, photography, visual arts. In this context, some artworks, like the most interesting architectonic reuses, do not re-propose slavishly pre-existing realities. On the contrary, thorough a process of estrangement and montage, they relaunch, open to unexpected outcomes. This text proposes an analysis of some works straddling the beginning of the millennium, by Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi and Joan Fontcuberta. These authors, by different means, suggest the existence of a common ground, a possible map of the contemporary artistic production dealing with alpine territories. Nitrate ghosts of living beings suspended in a nearly abstract white, digital landscape, mermaids’ skeletons. Images differ greatly from one another and displace the observer. By deconstructing the mechanisms behind communications produced by different systems of power (scientific, political, etc.), they dismantle prejudices and established visions. They do not oppose new realities to existing ones, but with the irruption of the unexpected, of discrepancy and heterogeneity, compared to conventions and to the foreseeable, they activate the observer, bounced out of the comfort zone of the passive spectator.

Efficacia dell’arte, strategie di rete e approccio trasformativo a paesaggio e patrimonio alpino

Effectiveness of art, network strategies and transformative approach to landscape and alpine heritage

Ever since 2011, Dolomiti Contemporanee (DC) has been operating on the contemporary identity of the mountain, and on the state of the Landscape, as well as the cultural, historic, and architectural Heritage inside the region of UNESCO’s Dolomites. Its research takes shape in the reactivation of large, issue-heavy industrial archaeology sites and compounds: former factories, former social villages, iconic architectural creations, with a great historical or aesthetic value, abandoned and underutilized, immersed in the powerful nature of the Dolomitic region. DC works on the redefinition of the mountain’s identity, building re-innovative and thematic critical images. In this sense, we refuse to recognize as an acceptable identity for the Alpine landscape the hotchpotch of stereotypical reductions which deliver a bland and reified vision of it, one that almost always involves plain and simple economic and touristic exploitation of the asset, to the detriment of its real potential’s nourishment. DC’s practice puts at the centre the need for re-enhancement and functional re-use of a few exceptional sites, which must be re-processed and re-activated. It is a responsible necessity of care and an opportunity for the regeneration of extraordinary underdeveloped sources of potential at the same time. Contemporary art, innovation culture, network strategies, those are some of the “techniques” through which such sites, so important in the past and now lifeless, are tackled, and morphed into cultural and artistic production centres, finally operative again, engines able to represent and provide new value to the territory.

Rinnovare il patrimonio. Learning from contemporary artists

Renew the legacy. Learning from contemporary artists

Three contemporary art projects suggest some useful reflections to introduce a discontinuity in the ways of thinking about the transformation of existing spaces going beyond the misunderstood oppositions as “old” and “new”. In Trentino, the artworks by Collective OP, Anna Scalfi Eghenter and Michele De Lucchi show how art and culture are extraordinary means for social innovation but also for promoting new architectural practices based on reduce, reuse and recycle that may be kept in mind for the development of further initiatives.

Am Bestehenden weiterdenken

Thinking about what already exists

Isn’t the existent always the outcome of any creative confrontation? Is such a creative discussion really out of a contextual consideration? Isn’t every context – even a purely spiritual one – part of the heritage? In his contribution, Walter Angonese reflects on the potential of the pre-existent on the architectural project. He believes in “thinking ahead” and consequently in “building on”, and that is why the question of the relevance of existing structures to architectural design has been clarified. However, he also believes that the quality of the existent can only be improved thanks to an increased habit of awareness and not only following and blaming the prescribed laws for quality assurance. This awareness raising gives responsibility to the individual within a society, but also makes him responsible for his own actions. Building in an alpine context – like any building, by the way – is therefore a question of responsibility, towards oneself and towards one’s society. If the architectural idea is built by leading it from an intuition about a cultural reflection to what one can call a real “architectural idea” (and not merely any intuition), then that is an important first step for a high-quality “continuing construction” of the existing. Only the heritage and the existent can become a meaningful starting point of the project.


Progettare la «Stimmung». Dialogo tra Armando Ruinelli e Quintus Miller

Design the «Stimmung». Dialogue between Quintus Miller and Armando Ruinelli

The architects Quintus Miller and Armando Ruinelli operate mainly in Switzerland and in particular in the Grisons area where they have carried out several projects thus facing the different issues affecting the requalification of landscape and of existing architecture in the valley and mountain context. The dialogue between the two architects highlights their design approach in relation to the historical, cultural and environmental peculiarities of this heritage. What emerges strongly is the need for the contemporary project to reinterpret the existing in order to identify and restore in each project the «Stimmung» intended as an absolute synthesis of all those elements that characterize a given place or a given architecture in time and space. From the architectural redevelopment of small buildings to the insertion of new volumes within historical fabrics, from the restoration of monuments to the expansion of historic structures, the narrated projects show a well-read approach towards the intervention on heritage allowing a critical reinterpretation of history, of memory and of the long lasting Alpine settlement processes.

Scomporre e ricomporre il patrimonio. Dialogo con Martino Pedrozzi

Disassembling and reassembling the heritage. A conversation with Martino Pedrozzi

Martino Pedrozzi operates in Canton Ticino. His architectural production ranges from renovations to ex novo interventions; among the most remarkable projects, the interventions on the abandoned heritage of high mountain pastures in Val Malvaglia are worth mentioning. With a combination of art and architecture, Pedrozzi “reassembles” the stones of the destroyed ruins within their own perimeter walls, with implications of symbolic, conservative and landscape value. This project implies various meanings: from the restoration of a neat public spatiality, to a gesture of pietas and dignity towards a civilization, the rural Alpine one, ended only a few decades ago. The interventions are going to involve also building reconditioning, wherever the pre-existing ones will allow it, through minimal substitutions and integrations. The redevelopment also extends to the landscape, through practical and symbolic cleaning operations of former alpine pastures covered with vegetation since their abandonment. Freed from functionality and economic interests, they become construction sites shared by volunteers, friends and students, involving a strong educational component.

Secolarizzazione, memoria e nuovi revivals: la difficile riscrittura del presente

Secularization, memory and new revivals: the difficult rewriting of the present

The architectural project of re-use, in a context full of historical, cultural and environmental values such as the Alpine one, must inevitably confront with the list of conceptualizations elaborated during the twentieth-century modernity. First of all we have to think about memory which is the main raw material of architecture and its history, a theme on which the culture of restoration has been built, and on which the rhetoric of re-use has been shaped in recent times, with the gradual addition of other contemporaneity values such as soil consumption, sustainability, zero growth. The theme of memory seems in some cases to negotiate the one of secularization, a term that often comes to coincide with modernity. The modernity that has standardized and flattened the Alpine territory, raising questions about the meaning of the “encounter”, its ability to question prejudices, beliefs, and consolidated rhetorics. The “encounter” that takes place in the moment in which the contemporary urban culture succeeds in crossing landscape and Alpine architecture issues, creating disorientation, reopening the eyes of the observer and rebooting history by questioning the present. The “rewriting of the existent” therefore raises issues that are difficult to make explicit, such as the recognition and critical knowledge that are the basis of design responsibility. This is accompanied by the threat caused by a prescriptive approach which, in light of the aspects of control and of technological and environmental management of the mountain context, can lead to the drift of the practice which must be avoided only through the assumption of risk linked to the design itself.

Die Zeitgenossenschaft des Alten im Engadin

The contemporaneity of the ancient in the Engadine

The Engadinerhaus is a typical historic Engadine collective building that combines all the functions of a farm and a residence into a single housing system. It is characterized by a distribution and structural scheme organized according to certain principles that give the artifacts an imposing and severe external appearance. These are very old buildings whose matrix can be placed between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries and which have undergone numerous transformations over time in order to adapt them to the changing needs of the agricultural world. The historical and documentary value of these important testimonies is already recognized at the beginning of the twentieth century and in 1905 the “Bündner Heimatschutz” is already promoting their protection in order to preserve their architectural and building features. The architect Hans-Jörg Ruch has recently worked on some projects for the re-functioning and restoration of these extraordinary buildings, which in some cases have kept their residential use, while in other cases they have been converted into exhibition spaces and art galleries. The buildings presented in this essay – such as the Chesa Andrea in Madulain, the Chesa Büsin in Silvaplana, the Chesa Madalena in Zuoz, the Chesa Merleda in La Punt, the Chesa Not in Tschlin and the Chesa Perini in S-Chanf – are just one selection of the works realized in Engadine by Ruch. New interior volumes, such as a “house in the house”, or even veils and walls with shapes and materials that strongly reveal their contemporaneity, are inserted in the original spaces of the old building left unaltered. These interventions show an unprecedented and original dialectic between the preservation of the materic character of the historical artifact and the unveiling of new meanings and spatiality, through architectural, constructive and material solutions affected by contemporary artistic procedure.

Il paesaggio alpino in quanto oggetto patrimoniale

The alpine landscape as a heritage object

Observing the alpine landscape as a heritage object means reconstructing its aesthetic history, understanding those meanings and values that, over time, have led to its growing patrimonialization. A short history after all: it is in fact only since the second half of the eighteenth century that the Alps become, thanks to the scientific and artistic research, the object of aesthetic perception by European urban societies. A cultural and aesthetic construct that, starting from Haller and Rousseau, through Ruskin and other authors, goes as far as modern Alpine architecture. With a basic ambivalence: the immutability that the European aesthetic gaze has always conferred to the Alps, despite the continuous transformation and mutability of the Alpine landscape in real processes. The value of the Alps as a heritage, paradoxically depends, above all on the heritage still to be built, where this verb has primarily a conceptual value. The policies that automatically define the totality of the Alps as a heritage are not only actually impossible, but tend to create wastelands. The real care of the Alpine heritage therefore lies in its permanent reinvention.

Manipolazioni metasemiche del patrimonio

Metasemic manipulations of heritage

The construction of a renewed habitability of the contemporary Alpine space requires a profound critical revision of the ways of looking and of the cultures concerning the theme of re-use of the built heritage. Over the last few decades, a sort of crystallization of imaginaries, operational practices and development ideas has emerged around the two terms of re-use and heritage and their ways of interaction, which today is likely to be an obstacle to the construction of new development scenarios for the Alpine region. Trying to imagine new values and meanings of the concepts of reuse and heritage, however, requires the questioning of those patrimonialization cultures that have served as the ultimate framework for the project of the Alpine space. The essay reconstructs those design processes that, starting from a renewed productive vision of the mountain, attempt today to overcome a hypostatized vision of the conventional cultural landscape produced by the patrimonialist paradigm, to embrace a transformative attitude of the heritage based on the materic character of the basic elements of the Alpine space. In particular we want to underline how the contemporary design culture in the Alps is directed to the development of synthetic languages aimed at capturing the stratified and diachronic dimension of the built landscape through metasemic cognitive and interpretative practices. It is an attitude that, against a background of the change in perspective brought about by climate change and environmental issues, allows the maximization of the opportunities and physical resources recovered in the place, perfectly in line with the aptitude for the continuous re-use of the Alpine civilizations of the past, which focuses on the awareness of participating in a constructive process of transformation of the long lasting Alpine territory.


La cultura architettonica sulle Alpi sembra aver sviluppato negli ultimi anni una particolare sensibilità sul tema del riuso e della valorizzazione del patrimonio, maturando un approccio non ideologicamente conservativo che – sommato ad un’azione di “tutela critica” – introduce nuove modalità di manipolazione consapevole degli oggetti trasformabili. Questo numero esplora le possibilità del progetto di architettura nell’operare una sintesi intenzionalmente non risolta e volutamente tensionale tra dimensione storica e contemporanea, attraverso un processo di risignificazione del patrimonio. Attraverso alcuni saggi di natura teorica, una rassegna di architetture di eccellenza, ed infine alcune esperienze parallele legate al mondo dell’arte e della fotografia, si è qui cercato di esplorare i differenti modi con cui il progetto contemporaneo si misura con il patrimonio costruito esistente. L’obiettivo è mettere a fuoco come esso consenta di integrare storia e contemporaneità, con esiti che sovente travalicano queste due componenti di partenza. In particolare, le architetture presentate mostrano come la dimensione storica ma al contempo attuale dei manufatti sia compresente in una sintesi stratificata, diacronica e profondamente intrecciata. Ecco dunque schiudersi nuovi e originali percorsi di ricerca progettuale che vanno oltre la sclerotizzazione valoriale dell’esistente, e travalicando anche la retorica della contrapposizione antico/nuovo che ha guidato buona parte degli interventi sull’esistente dei decenni precedenti. Un’attitudine che, nel perseguire l’integrazione di nuove esigenze e funzioni, lavora sullo scarto, sul rovesciamento di senso, sulla reinvenzione semantica, sull’innesto, superando un approccio meramente patrimonializzante per entrare invece in una dimensione fondata sull’idea di riuso e al contempo risignificazione. Questo grazie al ricorso a dispositivi e pratiche interpretative e metonimiche che sovente sembrano pervenire dal mondo della ricerca artistica. Si vuole dunque porre l’accento sull’interazione tra il “prima” ed il “dopo” nella misura in cui questa tensione genera un’architettura terza che li contiene entrambi, ponendosi nel solco della profondità storica dei processi insediativi alpini, ma al contempo rispondendo alle attuali esigenze di rigenerazione e di nuova abitabilità del territorio. Per riuscire a comprendere la natura di questa nuova cultura del riuso è però necessario indagare la materialità delle pratiche, degli atti costruiti, delle tecniche compositive e costruttive, delle differenti figurazioni ottenute: elementi che costituiscono il centro tematico e concettuale di questo numero.


The architectural culture in the Alps seems to have developed in recent years a particular awareness on the theme of heritage reuse and enhancement, developing a non-ideologically conservative approach that – added to an action of “critical protection” – introduces new ways of conscious manipulation of the transformable objects. This issue explores the possibilities of architectural design to achieve an intentionally unresolved and deliberately tensional synthesis between historical and contemporary dimensions, through a process of resignification of the heritage. Thanks to some theoretical essays, a review of architectural excellence examples, and some parallel experiences related to the world of art and photography, we have tried to explore the different ways in which the contemporary project tackles the existing built heritage. The goal is to focus on the possibility of integration of history and contemporaneity, with outcomes that often go beyond these two starting components. Specifically, the proposed architectures show how the historical yet contemporary dimension of the artifacts coexists in a stratified, diachronic and deeply interwoven synthesis. As a result, new and original design research paths have developed overcoming both an approach of values crystallization of what already exists and the rhetoric of the struggle between old and new that has guided most of the interventions on the existing heritage of the previous decades. An attitude that, in pursuing the integration of new needs and functions, works on the scrap, on the reversal of meaning, on the semantic reinvention, on the grafts, overcoming a purely patrimonializing approach to enter a whole new dimension founded on the idea of reuse and at the same time of resignification. This is possible thanks to the use of interpretative and metonymic devices and practices that often seem to come from the world of artistic research. We therefore want to emphasize the interaction between the “before” and the “after” in so far as this tension generates a third architecture that contains them both, placing itself in the furrow of the historical depth of the Alpine settlement processes while responding to the current needs of land regeneration and new livability. To be able to understand the nature of this new culture of reuse it is however necessary to investigate the materiality of the practices, of the building processes, of the composition and construction techniques, of the different figurations obtained: all elements that represent the thematic and conceptual center of this issue.



Valle d’Aosta. La sfida della continuità

Aosta Valley. The challenge of continuity

The text traces the history of Aosta Valley architecture from the Second World War to the present day. The first part focuses on the evolution of architecture in the fifties and sixties, on modern architecture and on the international influences in a long phase of great economic growth. In the central part it focuses rather on the regionalist and sometimes folkloristic evolution of the following decades. He then tried to analyse, starting from the 2000s, the profound transformations generated by the economic crisis but also by the extraordinary occupation of land that over the course of about 50 years has saturated most of the territory of a small Alpine region. Finally, it attempts an analysis of the most recent development, of relations with the rest of the Alpine world and of the not easy attempt to combine history, environment, aesthetics and rationality. The text is accompanied by the choice of eight architectures from 2010 in the last eight years. As you can see only two are public works, two of collective interest and four are private homes and this choice wants to focus your attention to the fact that in the near future, in all likelihood, will no longer be the public commission to be at the center of possible experiments with new architectural languages.


Alpes françaises du nord. Régional et moderne «en même temps»

Northern French Alps. Regional and modern «at the same time»

The triple stimulation of geography (lakes and mountains), environmental problems and border influences could justify the claim of a regional architecture in the Northern Alps. Especially since the production is significant, driven by economic dynamics. But the question posed by critical regionalism is that of an architecture of resistance. There is no architecture in the Savoie countries that can be said to be regionalist according to this formulation opposing the local to the universal. And yet, there is a form of non-conceptualized resistance: because of the place, the climate, the architectural heritage, including the twentieth century. Indeed by its specific programs, the mountain has been a place for architectural and technical experiences. Today these buildings are markers of the territory fully participating in alpine identity. For the inhabitants, a particular cultural identity is built around the myth of mountain life updated. It is constituted around the outdoor, a high-tech industry, an international mobility (Geneva airport), an exceptional biodiversity… This idealization of the mountain has been in resistance to the dominant discourse carried by a declining company. Contemporary architectural production is claimed by the new populations as a way of living the mountain, connected to the world but differentiating them from the inhabitants of the “plain”. What has been implemented architecturally is very in tune with the current political discourse of “at the same time”: industry and nature, comfort and sobriety, technicality and tradition, universal and local. So even the modern break is being digested as an assumed alpine marker – at the same time –.


Per un nuovo regionalismo alpino. Crisi del «neo vernacolare» e necessità di contemporaneità

For a new alpine regionalism. Crisis of the «neo vernacular» and the necessity of contemporaneity

The mountain development model sustained by the coexistence of a distorting and stereotyped vernacular imaginary on one side and the uncritical and widespread re-proposing of urban settling schemes on the other, have been in a crisis situation since decades. Mass tourism and the spread of second houses have progressively brought on an overlap to local cultures and have caused a distortion of the natural environment, simplifying the idea of the mountain to just a place of transit and consumption. The way represented by the settling of the “new mountain dwellers”, even if it is still exiguous in numbers in terms of repopulation, it is essential in renewing and redefining lifestyles, cultures, forms: the Alps as a place of a contemporary living emancipated from rustic and urban, being able to get over the ambiguous paradigm founded on an old idea of “museumization” of the environment and the patrimony and on an indiscriminate exploitation of the territory too.


La traccia e l’impronta. Riflessioni su modernità e regionalismo

The trace and the footprint. Thoughts about modernity and regionalism

The reflection on regionalism is really relevant on the present social, political and cultural situation that witnesses the crisis of projects of European unity and globalization. The alpine regionalism, founded on the permeability to cultures and movements to the detriment of physical and administrative limitations and catalyst of diversities, is mainly understandable as opposite to the nationalist ideologies from last century. It is a phenomenon with a distinctive condition that involves the alpine territory on different scales, from a large one to a small one. Its historical depth is determined by an articulated stratification of not linear processes (facts and interpretations, geographies, economies, migration, rights, etc.) accentuated by the complexity of the alpine context and able to destabilize and continuously discuss its models. The modernity on the Alps, which has imposed alien ways of using the space and has caused a complex network of regionalisms and internationalisms, is nowadays involved in a phenomenon of patrimonialisation: alpine territories that are under both regressive and strongly innovative processes, in relation to the critical marginality of the areas involved, have to face the issues of patrimony and space in deep interaction with the dynamics of nationality and democracy.

Leggere le Alpi

Reading the Alps

Living a place means first of all reading it, understanding it, assimilating it. This is even more evident in the case of a particular natural environment where the possibilities of land use are limited. Looking at a map of the Alps, it becomes clear how the morphology has conditioned the methods of settlement and exploitation of the places. In an attempt to read and interpret the transformation of the Alpine territories, the Architetti Arco Alpino association has initiated a review of projects, from which it emerges that today there exist very different cultural, political, social and economic contexts. The result are two almost opposite phenomena. In some places the mountains have been abandoned, which has led to the risk of losing their important architectural heritage. The interventions are therefore aimed at enhancing the existing structures and constructing new buildings capable of becoming a reference for the redevelopment of entire villages. In other places, a harmonic balance between human presence and territory has been largely exceeded. Here, the objective is to put a stop to further land development, aiming to enhance the quality of the existing buildings and implementing an aesthetic and formal research that is capable of becoming an economic value and an element of cultural identification. Taking into account the various “cultural horizons” and reference regions, it becomes clear that South Tyrol has historically maintained close ties with North Tyrol and the neighbouring Swiss cantons. Contemporary architecture is commonly seen as an asset today, not only among experts, but also among the general population. On the other hand, the relations with Austria’s and Slovenia’s Eastern Alpine territories have less effect. The research seems to be the work of a limited number of professionals. In the Western Alps, cross-border relations with France and Switzerland have a stronger cultural and linguistic root, but perhaps the presence of large massifs difficult to cross has prevented a closer relationship and a dissemination of common construction methods. Crossing national and international administrative boundaries, the Alps can continue to be a place of passage, of confrontation and of cultural, linguistic, economic and also architectural exchange.


Piemonte. Tra stasi e sperimentazioni, un quadro chiaroscurale

Piedmont. Between stasis and experimentations, a «chiaroscuro» framework

The contemporary architectural production in the Alps of Piedmont has to be studied taking into consideration the contrasting phenomena of depopulation and tourism that have involved the mountain areas of the region during last century. In the fifties and sixties the percentage of abandonment of the high valleys reaches even 80-90%. Entire communities move to industrial urban centers in the cities on the plain. On the other side we witness to a strong polarization of the winter stations that become real “banlieues blanches” for the free time of the citizens and where the architecture of alpine modernism, with various forms, shapes. The paradox nowadays is that the rarefaction of abandoned and depopulated territories is necessary to force to start and choose new innovative paths. We witness a contemporary situation with different shades: on one side the well-established touristic territories that need projects to promote the redevelopment and diversification, on the other side the marginal places where are rising new visions are practices of reactivation of the territory in which architecture is fundamental. The topic of quality of the construction of the physical space intersects with the regeneration of places on a cultural basis, new agriculture and green economy, innovative development of the patrimony, sustainable tourism, with inclusive and participative paths of nature, by giving new meanings to places and building new economies and identities.


Alpi della Svizzera occidentale. La retorica dello «stile contemporaneo alpino»

Alps of western Switzerland. The rhetoric of «contemporary alpine style»

Geographically characterized by three regions with a very different nature that converge on the Lac Léman – Schweizer Alpen, Shweizer Mittelland, Jura suisse or rather mountain chain, lacustrine plain and calcareous barrier – the area of western Switzerland, also from the point of view of its cultural identity, has defined itself through the composition of this contrasting elements. This area cannot be considered entirely alpine then. You can also find quite big linguistics and religious diversities and cultural contrasts between the inhabitants of the countryside and the mountains, politically conservative, and the inhabitants of the cities with a liberal orientation. These differences are the key to understand the dynamics of building development of the region, characterized by the conflict between the idea of progress and that of territory conservation. They reflect on the environmental aspects, tourism promotion and service infrastructures. Since the second half of last century, the industrialization has triggered off the upsetting of the strong local balances, marking the passage from a mainly agricultural and pastoral economy to one of production and services, leaving on the ground hydraulic and infrastructure engineering. Also from the architectural point of view, the panorama seems to change to embrace the brave research of a language of synthesis between the lexical elements of the vernacular tradition and the raw materials of industrial logic. These elements are the background of the contemporary design culture, stuck between a complex management of the territory, the reiteration of formal features, the presence of aesthetic drifts and a harsh dialectics that sometimes mixes up protection with preservation, progress with development, development with abuse.


Cantone Ticino. Note sull’architettura recente

Canton of Ticino. Notes on recent architecture

The author hypothesises three keys of interpretation by which to consider recent architecture in the Canton of Ticino. The first is the condition of proximity that characterizes the Ticino context, fostering discussions and exchanges of information between architects of different generations, contributing to the development of individual personalities yet in keeping with trajectories that have numerous points of contact, including political similarities. The second lies in attention to constructional factors, in the assiduous practice of the building site and the attention to detail shown by these architects, prompting consideration of the project from the same point of view, namely by assuming constructional issues as nurturing reflection on the project and a generative element of it, on a par with the conceptions of settlement, typology and space. The third key to interpretation recognizes as a shared attitude the urge to anchor the project to objective criteria that manifest it as the outcome of a rational process that can be reconstructed a posteriori, aiming at its appropriateness and expressibility to free it from the “Saint Anthony’s temptation of originality at all costs” (Steinmann) and so to construct a rational, verifiable and therefore transmissible discourse, which is a way to renew the tradition of the Modern critically and undogmatically.


Graubünden. Ein Verein für die Baukultur. Wie sich der Bündner Heimatschutz für baukulturelle Anliegen engagiert

Canton of Grisons. An association for the building culture. How the Bündner Heimatschutz is committed to building culture issues

Heimatschutz is considered the most important organization for the culture of construction in the Grisons. Founded in 1905 with the aim of protecting the traditional Grisons’ culture considering landscape and nature, since the beginning it paid attention not only to the “conservation” of the architectural heritage but also to its “evolution”. At the end of the seventies driven by figures such as Peter Zumthor, the focus shifts on constructed environment with a new emphasis: paving the way to contemporary architecture. Besides taking care of the protection and redevelopment of historical buildings, the Heimatschutz commits to the contemporary development of architecture, also in contexts of territorial planning. It has three main tools: the work of public relations with publications and events, the active promotion of projects made by others and, at the end, the critic action – to the process. The Valendas case shows the proactive intervention of Heimatschutz towards solving the present problem of abandoned villages. On the contrary the discussion about the restoration of the boarding school of the Canton in Coira shows how the association was able to anchor in the public opinion the demand of a careful management of the most important buildings of a period mostly unpopular as the sixties. Nowadays the Heimatschutz counts around 450 members and thanks to a legacy of more than two millions francs can make use of a professional structure.

Cantone Grigioni. Architettura contemporanea e rigenerazione dei piccoli nuclei in val Bregaglia

Canton of Grisons. Contemporary architecture and regeneration of small villages in val Bregaglia

The Atelier Ruinelli is based in Soglio, Bregaglia, in the canton of Grisons. Development as a consequence of winter sports was unknown to the valley and it survived the 20th century almost intact. To exploit the inherent potential in places such as this, it is fundamental to reflect on questions of identity so that diversity can emerge. By preserving small villages, architecture can help create identity. But conservation, at least as it has been understood thus far, is ineffectual. Villages must be in a state of constant evolution and renewal, shelving some of those dogmas which regulate their transformation. Rather than make changes to building regulations, it would be useful to move to a consultation process with teams of architects. Whenever work is being carried out in a small village, it is important that this way of thinking should be immediately apparent. In the Grisons there is a multiplicity of examples of this type of quality architecture. One cannot really talk about a “school” as such, but the presence of a studio like Atelier Zumthor has a diffuse and widespread influence. Miriam Cahn’s “Il Magazzino” (warehouse) and the transformation of stalls and a barn in Isola are two recent works, presented as examples of the Atelier Ruinelli approach. Both projects address the themes of creating structures that fit the context, building on what has already been built and experimenting with materials.

Identity, build on the built,
urban regeneration, typological
interpretation, material

Valtellina e Valchiavenna. Ricorrenze e discontinuità per un’architettura in cerca di identità

Valtellina and Valchiavenna. Occurrence and discontinuity for an architecture pursuing its identity

Architecture in Valtellina and Valchiavenna remained anchored to ancient traditions until the second half of the twentieth century, when new lifestyles and economic models lead to the so-called “building boom”. In this period, the best agricultural land lost its use value and the traditional rural architecture was replaced by a building without quality that spread over the territory. Despite this, it can however be said that a high-quality architectural production, in the Province of Sondrio, has continued to exist. In the last fifty years, some architects have realized significant works, also thanks to the local administrations that have promoted the construction of public buildings and infrastructures, such as new municipal offices, civic centres, libraries, sports halls. On the other hand, widespread building has maintained a low quality level. In recent years, the role of public administrations has lost importance, because private initiative has been encouraged. Today, therefore, the role of cultural promotion becomes strategic, in the hope of a better capability to reconstruct an architectural culture spread throughout the territory and among all the professionals involved in the construction process.


Vorarlberg. Baukultur für alle

Vorarlberg. Building culture for all

We cannot understand the development of Vorarlberg’s architectural culture without its spatial, topographical, and socio-economic context. There is a great contrast between rural valleys and the busy, semi-urban Rhine Valley. With their exemplary buildings, states and municipalities model the production of excellent, contemporary architecture. Industrial and commercial architecture has achieved an impressive corporate identity as well. However, we rarely find the same quality in residential construction. Because of the high cost of real estate and construction apartment buildings have grown up like mushrooms, intruding upon areas formerly predominated by detached housing. Urban sprawl has eliminated the borders between the 29 municipalities of the Rhine Valley, resulting in a giant suburban landscape. To remedy this process, the players cooperate with the regional authorities as they carry out their vision of urban planning, including guidelines and ideas. Because planning and production have become so complex, urban and regional development has turned into an immense challenge. Provincial and municipal authorities value openness, participation, common good, ecology, and sustainability and involve citizens and adapt the process to their needs. Still, they must consider subsidy rules and regulations, which, until now, have privileged private property over common good and have prioritized ecological standards over architectural quality and the concerns of urban planning. Since 1997, the Vorarlberg Architecture Institute, has inspired, challenged, and spoken for the architectural-cultural scene. It continues to mediate and complement the discourse and activities of the Central Association of the Architects of Vorarlberg. In addition, the Chamber of Architects strives to improve competition procedures. The Energy Institute Vorarlberg supports ecology and promotes sustainability. The Quality Association “vorarlberger_holzbaukunst” has promoted the renaissance of timber construction. Carpenters and architects actively support the prefabrication and development of new technical solutions. Similarly, the members of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald, a craftsmen’s association, continue and transform the cultural heritage in sophisticated and resource-friendly ways, as evidenced by many buildings and the “Werkraumhaus” itself. Vorarlberg’s hospitality industry plays an important role in supporting and promoting the architectural culture. However, thoughtful and coordinated master planning is necessary to expand the quality of individual architectural projects to urban and regional planning and construction. This transition will be the most important challenge for the period of urban densification. Vorarlberg may be Alpine – even rural – but it is urban without doubt.


Trentino. Territorio, paesaggio e architettura del regionalismo

Territory, landscape and critical regionalism in Trentino

The progress of the practice and the debate on architecture in the Alpine region of Trentino, in the last fifty years, has been characterised by a pivotal role of the Autonomous Province, the local authority with key competencies in environmental matters and spatial organisation, on the one hand, and by the experimentation and the promotion of discussion events on architecture, on the other. In the Sixties, spatial planning was conceived as a key instrument to support the development of a mountain province. Change was the perspective, and this required the activation of landscape control procedures centred on the control of the quality of architectural projects. This was not enough to qualify the professional practice, although some architects were able to propose innovative projects and began to animate the cultural debate, to establish supra-local relationships and to consolidate the awareness of the role of the architectural project. The contributions proposed are aimed at critically examine such issues, with a particular focus on the experience of institutions such as the “Scuola per il Governo del Territorio e del Paesaggio” within the Trentino School of Management, the “Osservatorio per il Paesaggio” within the Autonomous Province and the “Circolo Trentino Architettura Contemporanea”. Factors that led a decisive evolution of the spatial planning framework in the last decade, characterised by a new attention to the landscape and to the quality of architectural design, thanks to cultural initiatives, occasions of debate, and training paths.


Südtirol/Alto Adige. Architetture della contemporaneità tra passato e presente

Südtirol/Alto Adige. Contemporary architectures between past and present

What binds together, besides geographical continuity, the numerous types of contemporary South Tyrolean architecture? Can they function as a reverberation of the peculiarities of a region which tends to underline its uniqueness? There is certainly no common school. South Tyrolean architects study north and south of the Alps. They are translators of experiences gained elsewhere in a context that ends up by uniting them. Numerous competitions, the dissemination of their results and a rich ten-year activity of publication and exhibitions have contributed to create a good mutual knowledge and a fruitful exchange between the different schools of origin. There is a shared effort to give shape to the strong economic development that the province has been experiencing for several decades, also accepting the contradictions and problems of this growth, first of all the replacement of an agricultural landscape by the new and sometimes lacerating landscape of tourism. It does not seem that for South Tyrolean architecture an easy continuity with the past and its traditional ways of building is an option. However, the architecture continually references this rich heritage of forms, principles of settlement and techniques, a world to be confronted with and inspired by and a world which wishes to be transported into the present.

aut. architektur und tirol

aut. architektur und tirol (vormals Architekturforum Tirol) wurde 1993 als viertes „Haus der Architektur“ in Österreich gegründet und startete 1994 mit der ersten öffentlichen Veranstaltung in den Räumlichkeiten Erlerstraße 1 in Innsbruck. Das Hauptanliegen des unabhängigen Vereins besteht darin, Fragen zur qualitätvollen Gestaltung des Lebensraumes zu thematisieren und die für ihr Entstehen notwendigen gesellschaftlichen und rechtlichen Grundlagen aufzubereiten. Das Spektrum der Aktivitäten umfasst zahlreiche Veranstaltungen wie Ausstellungen zu Architektur, Kunst und Design, Vorträge nationaler wie internationaler ArchitektInnen, Diskussionen, Exkursionen, Symposien, Führungen, schwerpunktartige Filmreihen und “Vor Ort„Werkgespräche in aktuellen Bauwerken sowie ein spezielles Programmangebot für Kinder und Jugendliche. Die Finanzierung des aut setzt sich zusammen aus Mitteln der öffentlichen Hand (Subventionen kommen vom Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur, vom Land Tirol, Abteilung Kultur, von der Stadt Innsbruck sowie der Kammer der Architekten und Ingenieurkonsulenten für Tirol und Vorarlberg), Geldern aus der privaten Wirtschaft, Erträgen aus Dienstleistungen sowie den Beiträgen der Vereinsmitglieder.

Provincia di Belluno. Tracce di contemporaneità

Province of Belluno. Traces of contemporaneity

The Province of Belluno is home of great human and landscape quality and of the beautiful Dolomites, UNESCO World Heritage. How experiences of contemporary architecture fit and how are promoted in this context? It can be said that contemporary architecture does not attract a big audience. This is despite the constant efforts by various bodies and associations to promote its diffusion and development through competitions, conferences, workshops and case studies. In the Belluno region, apart from the extraordinary extant historical heritage, there are widespread examples of new architecture known as “false alpine models” or architecture that has erroneously become typical of the Province’s image. This is the reason why this new architecture with its range of peculiarities is widely reiterated, from north to south of the area. Even though buildings of this type lack any real ties with history or tradition, they find widespread approval by institutions and commissions. They are the result of repetitive practices deriving from constraints imposed by local regulations and a limited aptitude in the use of contemporary language of architecture. Even if the barometer of the vitality of contemporary architecture in the region of Belluno is rather lukewarm, dampened by cultural resistance and by regulatory constraints affecting its growth and diffusion, there is no lack of experiences, initiatives and achievements. The latter is evidence of the fact that where research and the use of contemporary languages are accompanied by the opinions of enlightened patrons, good architecture is born, which find space in the arena of national and international architectural debate. Examples of good architecture, even though limited in number, are distributed across the Province and constitute heritage and the focus for promoting and consolidating the growth and dissemination of contemporary architecture throughout the area.

Building culture in slovenian Alps through space and time

The european Alpine “stone arch” has its own natural and cultural identity. It represents “proto-architecture” that offers artistic inspiration, formal references, therapeutic effects. Slovenia and its Alps are small (like a fractal pattern of the big ones), but diverse in their landscapes, settlement culture and architectural traditions. Historically we were always part of Middle European cultural context (between the Alps, Mediteranean and Pannonian plains). Mostly part of bigger states, their culture reflected in built environment and architecture: from regulated order of the monarchy, the transition to modernity between WWI and WWII, “self-made” modernism of socialism, global capitalism free market trends after independance. The result is manifested in dispersed “urban sprawl” territories, a theme of “healing process” for younger urban planning and architectural generations to face with. Luckily less in the Alps with their strong traditions and topographies, where many compact historic settlements still witness their original urban matryx, (medieval) “spatial language” with its organic logic and very precise urban wisdom. Some extraordinary designers in Slovenia helped to create high level of architecture culture in XXth century (also in the alpine space): besides two great personalities, Maks Fabiani and Jože Plečnik, the latter started – together with Juan Vurnik – with “Ljubljana school of architecture”, there was also his follower Edvard Ravnikar (who worked also at Le Corbusier’s), who continued with the architecture school and raised many good, modern architects. After the independence (1991) the younger generation reflects global trends, but also continues with architecture of high quality, found in some beautifull, diverse projects in the Alps. Today our alpine communites care more for their urban heritage and renew it, reurbanise their squares, streets and parks and support models of sustainable development, in which high level of building culture is an essential part of.


ConstructiveAlps. Contemporaneità, sostenibilità, regionalità

ConstructiveAlps. Contemporaneity, sustainability, regionality

ConstructiveAlps, an award that takes on the thought of Mies Van der Rohe who says «True architecture is always objective and is the expression of the inner structure of our time»; not therefore an Alpine Architecture award but an award for sustainable architecture in the Alps that recognizes the responsibility of Architecture in the effects of climate change. So “constructive” means useful, effective, concrete. 1300 architectures in 4 editions judged by holistic criteria considering energy efficiency, appropriate technologies, use of local and coherent materials, embodied energy, life cycles, sobriety, restraint, impact on the landscape, soil consumption and healthiness, life’s quality, building costs and public transport. The winning projects are absolutely necessary architectures, multifunctional, wooden, with very high energy performances but also social and cultural, able to encourage the communities maintenance in the alpine territories, are civil architecture able to have physical and figurative centrality, to be a reference for the rebirth of places with abandonment risk. Making sustainable architecture facilitate new regionality with a glocal attitude that enhance cultural differences.


Regioni e regionalità in area alpina: dalle architetture politiche alle architetture costruite

Regions and regionalism in the Alpine area: from political architectures to built architectures

The article deals with the concept of regionalism including it in the dialogue between architectural culture and alpine world through an interdisciplinary perspective. As a result of historical processes of interaction with external cultural, social and economic situations, the Alps look as a mosaic of identities with an evasive and discontinuous contour. This has encouraged the segmentation of approaches to read them and the increase of the geographies, through regionalism, has tried to reconstruct the logic and coherence of this space. In the second half of last century, the criticism to the regionalist paradigm has led to a new view of the region that can find new perspectives in the regionalism as a space of governance of the territory. Through regionalism, the contemporary alpine architecture brings up the complex network of cultural circulation and government and political systems. The architectural culture stands as a medium of comprehension of the territory as an expression of values, awareness and common and shared practices. In this perspective, regionalism reflects the cultures and the needs of living in the mountains. At the same time the culture of construction needs the participation of a civil society aware of the values of inclusion and belonging; in other words a society that, through culture, expresses awareness and common and shared practices; in other words its regionalism.

Die Bedeutung der zeitgenössischen Architektur für die Regionen und die Regionalentwicklung im Alpenraum

The importance of contemporary architecture in the regional development of Alpine regions

The Alps are characterised by a plethora of little regions that all developed very different building styles before the advent of the Industrial Age. Nature, culture, and history all contributed to modifying them over time. However, industrialisation whittled away at the differences, and the new global market levelled local trading practises, eradicating the old way of doing business. It is undoubtedly true that through the eyes of the modern Enlightened man, the old customs seemed quaint, even whimsical. Yet the 1980s, saw a change in attitudes, our love affair with globalisation had begun to pall, and the local and regional acquired the sheen of the authentic and unique. This change, however, gave rise to two schools of thought: “multifunctional regionalism” which advocates self-sufficiency, while “mono-functional regionalism”, a term coined by W. Bätzing, believes that a few well-placed financial manoeuvres are the solution to all ills. The former believe that culture, first and foremost, is essential to up-grading a region, together with a local economy powered by local resources, and the environment providing the context. Therefore any incentives would necessarily have to address all three jointly. Whereas, those in favour of a “mono-functional regionalism” see success purely in terms of bolstering the economy, which could be done using outside capital to back a few choice lighthouse projects. Neither culture nor environment feature in this scenario. Yet, the records since 1980 clearly show that “mono-functional regionalism” does not work. It has weakened the role of the region and undermined its economic and cultural heritage. It is basically “fake regionalism”. It is undeniable that any development necessarily involves building projects, thus, surely, architecture must play a leading role. Architecture is well-placed to make major contributions to any debate on multifunctional regionalism. It can potentially impact on the environment positively, while drawing on local tradition, culture and history, thus giving rise to new regional architecture.


La produzione architettonica contemporanea in area alpina attraverso la lente della regionalità

Contemporary architectural production in the Alpine area through the lens of regionality

In occasione del numero inaugurale, abbiamo pensato che la prima uscita della rivista internazionale «ArchAlp» dovesse essere caratterizzata da uno sguardo panoramico, configurandosi come una sorta di vero e proprio tour d’horizon dello spazio alpino. Ragionando con il comitato scientifico della rivista, ci è sembrato allora che una riflessione sui caratteri della produzione architettonica contemporanea nel territorio alpino europeo a partire da analisi e interpretazioni a base regionale potesse avere una valenza importante. Una restituzione quindi dello “stato dell’arte”, che però, per avere validità scientifica, doveva muovere da letture comparate, con l’obiettivo di restituire continuità e differenze nella cultura del costruire tra le diverse aree regionali alpine. Da qui l’idea di costruire il nucleo centrale del numero intorno a una serie di monografie locali. La prima questione che doveva essere criticamente tematizzata era il ricorso stesso alla categoria della regionalità come lente per indagare la produzione contemporanea alpina. Nel campo dell’architettura il termine “regione” rimanda inevitabilmente a filoni della critica e della storiografia architettonica – come il regionalismo critico – che indagano o sostengono un legame stringente tra storie e culture dello spazio regionale e produzione architettonica locale, soprattutto in chiave figurativa e costruttiva, con il rischio però di privilegiare visioni statiche fondate sul ritrovamento di continuità e permanenze. Visioni sovente di impronta culturalista in cui il tema di un’architettura regionalista – secondo un fil rouge che attraversa l’intera modernità – viene spesso a intrecciarsi con quelli della produzione artistica e letteraria. Parallelamente bisognava prestare attenzione alle diverse accezioni nazionali del termine, come ad esempio nel caso francese, dove il termine regionalisme corrisponde direttamente – e questo non solamente in anni recenti, ma lungo tutta la modernità novecentesca – a una certa idea di vernacolare strettamente connessa allo sviluppo dell’architecture des loisirs. Certamente più produttiva risultava essere la messa in tensione dialettica del termine regionalismo con quello di internazionalismo, coppia che ha costituito una forte chiave interpretativa della produzione architettonica della modernità novecentesca. Analoghi rischi di riduzionismo potevano venire al contempo da una lettura sociologica meccanica del rapporto tra contesto socioeconomico di un determinato territorio e sua rappresentazione architettonica, a discapito delle molte componenti che possono essere alla base della produzione edilizia. Al contempo, che si trattasse di una lente interpretativa significativa, in particolare modo rispetto allo spazio alpino, ci veniva confermato da contributi critici recenti, come ad esempio il numero 104 della rivista altoatesina «Turris Babel» che ha restituito gli esiti di una ricerca di EURAC (Research Institute per lo Sviluppo regionale) proprio sul rapporto tra spazi regionali e produzione/culture architettoniche, indagando i territori del Sud Tirolo, Trentino, Grigioni, Tirolo e Vorarlberg. Colta la valenza “produttiva” di tale interazione tra i due termini, si trattava però di tematizzare il termine regione non solo sul versante dell’architettura, ma anche – e questa era la seconda questione – su quello propriamente territoriale. Se nei primi decenni del Novecento i processi di modernizzazione e integrazione dello spazio alpino vertono su una dimensione ancora regionale, il secondo dopoguerra e i decenni successivi saranno caratterizzati – sebbene in presenza di diversità tra luoghi – da una progressiva omogeneizzazione dei territori sulla scorta del turismo di massa, dello spopolamento e del processo di unificazione e infrastrutturazione europea. Solo a partire dagli anni Settanta-Ottanta del Novecento avrà inizio un percorso che porterà a rafforzare, e per certi versi a reinventare, la dimensione regionale dello spazio alpino. Un percorso che vede al centro il consolidamento delle autonomie locali – che avrà tra l’altro come esito la diversificazione delle legislazioni e normative paesaggistiche, urbanistiche e edilizie regionali –, ma anche una differenziazione dei territori locali in termini di politiche e pratiche di sviluppo, turistiche, produttive e economiche, o ancora di costruzione di nuovi immaginari e identità. Da questo punto di vista, ecco allora che rispetto a concettualizzazioni architettoniche come quella del regionalismo critico – l’architettura che determina il carattere regionale – la questione si presenta capovolta, con politiche istituzionali, culturali, economiche che costruiscono, letteralmente, la regionalità del paesaggio costruito. Sullo sfondo, il sempre più marcato divaricarsi delle traiettorie delle Alpi di lingua tedesca da quelle di lingua latina. La grande attenzione per la cultura ecologista che prende corpo negli stati del centro e nord Europa verso la fine del Novecento si riversa sulle Alpi: non solo conservazione della natura e turismo soft, ma anche innovazione tecnologica, produzione di energie alternative, ecoedilizia in rapporto alle disponibilità di materiali del luogo, gestione forestale, trasporti sostenibili. Il caso del Vorarlberg, e non solo per l’architettura, è emblematico. Nelle Alpi latine i grandi protagonisti saranno invece i temi della valorizzazione della tradizione e del patrimonio storico-culturale, con una centralità della dimensione turistica – e dei processi di patrimonializzazione –che rappresenterà un limite di questa esperienza. Una divaricazione moltiplicata dalle differenze regionali e locali. Se le Alpi delle regioni – oggi in crisi come la stessa idea di Europa di fronte ai crescenti populismi e sovranismi di destra – hanno quindi conosciuto negli ultimi decenni una particolare rilevanza, lo stesso si può dire in relazione all’architettura. Pur non trattandosi di scuole o di tendenze necessariamente dai caratteri unitari, è infatti comune parlare di architettura dei Grigioni o del Vorarlberg, intendendo con queste espressioni l’emergere di produzioni architettoniche di qualità che intrattengono coi loro territori rapporti particolari. A fronte del tentativo di tematizzazione del rapporto tra architettura e regionalità nell’articolazione molteplice e “spessa” fin qui evocata, si è deciso di organizzare il numero intorno a tre nuclei specifici. Nella prima parte una serie di contributi di storici, geografi e esperti della montagna (Werner Bätzing, Luigi Lorenzetti, Carlo Olmo, Enrico Camanni) volta ad approfondire il nesso tra spazio e tempo nella definizione di pratiche e culture architettoniche.

La seconda parte, assai corposa, contiene invece le diverse monografie regionali, dalle Alpi francesi fino alla Slovenia. Per avere delle letture comparate, abbiamo posto ai diversi autori una serie di temi che ci sembrava importante approfondire:
• lo stato della produzione architettonica di qualità nell’ambito regionale, anche in relazione a quanto viene costruito a livello diffuso;
• l’esistenza e l’influenza di iniziative culturali (mostre, pubblicazioni, riviste, enti e fondazioni di sostegno, premi, ecc.) a favore dell’architettura di qualità, nonché la presenza di investimenti educativi e formativi capaci di sostenere l’evoluzione delle competenze per la promozione della qualità architettonica;
• l’esistenza di incentivazioni e politiche locali a favore dell’architettura di qualità;
• la percezione e la rilevanza dell’architettura contemporanea di qualità nell’opinione pubblica e nei media locali;
• il rapporto tra produzione architettonica di qualità e committenze pubbliche e private;
• i rapporti e le influenze culturali tra “interno” e “esterno”, tra spazio locale e globale (ad esempio le scuole di architettura frequentate dai progettisti e i loro percorsi formativi, o le influenze architettoniche internazionali, ecc.);
• il rapporto tra architettura di qualità e problematiche paesaggistiche e urbanistiche dello spazio regionale;
• i temi intercettati e non dalla produzione architettonica di qualità;
• l’esistenza di normative paesaggistiche e urbanistiche regionali e locali e le loro ricadute sulla produzione architettonica di qualità;
• l’influenza del marketing e delle logiche turistiche sulla produzione architettonica;
• il rapporto tra produzioni locali (filiere produttive e materiali, innovazione tecnologica, ecc.) e architettura di qualità;
• la relazione tra tematiche ecosostenibili e produzione architettonica di qualità;
• la montagnité della produzione architettonica di qualità e il modo con cui viene concettualizzato lo spazio alpino.

Non sempre gli autori si sono attenuti a tale canovaccio nella costruzione dei loro saggi, ma ci pare che l’insieme dei testi configuri un panorama d’insieme dai caratteri originali e comunque fino a oggi mai tentato. La terza e ultima parte raccoglie infine alcuni articoli che leggono gli esiti di iniziative culturali e di premi d’architettura recenti – Constructive Alps, Rassegna Architetti Arco Alpino – alla luce del rapporto con gli spazi regionali. In chiusura di questo primo numero desideriamo ringraziare gli autori dei saggi, il Comitato scientifico di «ArchAlp» e la rete dei Corrispondenti scientifici.

Un ringraziamento speciale va ad Armando Ruinelli, che è stato decisivo nei rapporti con gli autori di lingua tedesca – senza il suo supporto questo numero non avrebbe mai avuto luce –, e a Werner Bätzing e Luigi Lorenzetti.


Infra-strutture comunitarie. L’essere e il farsi dei luoghi

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Community infra-structures. The being and the making of places

The inside and the outside of the long age of spaces and things are replaced by the age of information. Can we still talk about physical spaces or has the metaphysics  of abstract relationships completely taken over? Are we facing the transmutation of bodies and shapes into mere memory allocations? The text leaves and asks for a space and a vision that reconcile these terms. The images of the Author’s country become the  metaphor of the inside and the outside of the present, acting as a manifesto of people’s participation in shaping their time. However, this life necessity still requires constant reconciliation between residing and overrunning, the identity of places and the one of relationships, history and the tale that challenges it and wishes to overcome it. Even more today, at the time of hyperhistory, when everything is told in detail and on every platform, reconciliation becomes necessary, so that hyper-facts do not simply decree the end of human participation. This goal requires a shift of paradigm of the terms property, citizenship and community within a new urban and institutional design.


Si Crans-Montana meurt. Soigner le corps malade d’une station

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

If Crans-Montana dies. Taking care of the ailing body of a tourist resort

New Alpine territories, like Crans-Montana on the Haut-Plateau, remain, more often than not, trapped in a representative logic opposing the clan of modernists to that of defenders of values anchored to an ideal or typical tradition. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Haut-Plateau territory, so called for its geographic location and topographic conformation – and not for the morphology of its soil – was still free of any construction sites. This vast Alpine meadow was marked by a few utility buildings for sheltering cattle and hay during the intermediate phases that precede midsummer. At the turn of the 3rd millennium, the built heritage, essentially consisting of hotel structures and holiday residences, is no longer able to integrate the new socio-economic dynamics based on the mono-culture of skiing. This crisis calls habits, both old and new (given the recent construction of the tourist resort), into question. In June 2000, a Federal program selected Crans-Montana as a case study for testing an Environment and Health Action Plan. This provided an opportunity for a group of architects to formulate an inter-municipal blueprint that activated a series of urban renewal projects. The new emerging architectural formulae attempt to get past stylistic modernism by reinterpreting the relationship with the built environment and its social context.

Arhitektura oživlj

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Architecture revives

Slovenia is an Alpine country: 11 percent of its territory is above 1,600 meters above sea level. The Slovenian Alps are dotted with secluded farms and clustered hamlets, but there are also larger towns on the plains of the pre-Alpine regions. In the 1990s Slovenia, together with other Alpine countries, entered the Convention on the Protection of the Alps. Due to its small size, the Slovenian Alpine area is manageable, but very fragile and sensitive to various interventions, especially to architectural ones. Namely, architecture shapes the mentality and consciousness of people, and thus also a country’s cultural and economic development. Today, it is difficult to talk about revitalizing the Alps without mentioning tourism, which brings money to the Alpine environment and creates jobs. Unfortunately, the Slovenian Alpine space is changing without a comprehensive approach to urban and architectural development. Economy and tourism-oriented strategies are also vague. Individual examples of modern quality architecture are a rather happy coincidence, the result of the architect’s sensibility, experience and mastery, and of the investor’s cultural vision. That is why the examples of good architectural practice that culturally and economically revive the Slovenian Alpine region and preserve its identity stand out all the more. They are distinguished by their attitude towards the environment – marked by an understanding and respect for the natural and cultural landscape, dimensions of volumes that are carefully integrated into the scenography of mountain ambiances, modern spatial design, the selection of new natural materials, the interpretation of traditional architectural heritage, and preservation of local traditions and the knowledge of ancestors.


Architetture e strategie per il welfare. Architetture e strategie per il welfare. Il caso di Brunico in Val Pusteria

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Welfare architectures and strategies. The Bruneck case in Val Pusteria

In both the South Tyrolean and Alpine areas, the case of Brunico is emblematic with regards to welfare strategies. Since the seventies and up to today, far-sighted planning policies have decisively contributed to their development. The physical and spatial translations of welfare policies and strategies are the several architectural and territorial actions that contribute to providing Brunico with an offer of facilities worthy of a large urban center. The welfare theme seems to go across all sectors of society. What is particularly surprising is not only the peculiar executive and formal quality of the various infrastructures and facilities available (and planned) in the municipal area, but also, and above all, their concentration within such a limited perimeter. Careful and minute planning, together with personalized actions on the territory and the adoption of a competition system for the assignment of the projects, all linked by a substantial communion of intent between citizens, the administration and designers, can lead even a mountain city to become competitive in terms of facilities for the community, and welfare strategies and infrastructures. A possible point of reference for those Alpine realities that want to look to the future with an eye to regeneration and modernity.

Pratiche e progettualità di rigenerazione e welfare: il “Premio triennale Giulio Andreolli – Fare paesaggio”

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Actions and projects of regeneration and welfare: the “Premio triennale Giulio Andreolli – Fare paesaggio”

The “Premio triennale Giulio Andreolli – Fare Paesaggio” was inaugurated in 2016 with the aim of enhancing landscape experiences in the European Alpine area. It is composed of three sections: territorial planning and programming initiatives, architectural and landscape interventions, and education and participation actions.
The success of the award shows the growing and transversal interest in landscape issues, at both institutional and professional level, in the context of spontaneous and “bottom-up” initiatives. One emergent aspect of interest during the various editions of the award is the emergence of a large number of activities related to the management of traditional rural landscapes, and oriented to the knowledge of territories and to the involvement of inhabitants. These local communities are often engaged in new organizational methods, driven by sincere enthusiasm and civic engagement.
That is the reason why one of the most interesting elements emerging from the award experience must be sought in this intersection between popular initiatives and both professional and institutional approaches. By bounding this reflection to the regeneration-driven production, which is the main topic of this issue, it is possible to isolate, among the many cases nominated for the award, some interesting experiences. With different outcomes, various designers and clients have dealt with contemporary architecture and explored important themes related to the transformation of Alpine landscapes.


L’archipel Butor. Une régénération, par la culture, d’un village soumis à la métropolisation genevoise

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

The Butor archipelago. A regeneration, through culture, of a village subject to the metropolisation of Geneva

Regeneration, as it is usually presented, implies economic crisis. For Lucinges, a village located in France, but only some kilometers away from Geneva, things are different: its regeneration started from a substratum of a cultural crisis. Geneva concentrates all forms of urban culture and, as a result of its metropolitan dimension, sterilizes all cultural development in its outlying territories. Geneva’s functional approach crushes the original rural culture, engaging Lucinges in a process of
Lucinges’ municipality decided to overturn this standardisation by creating a strong cultural venue which would bring inhabitants together and enforce the elected officials’ decisions. Michel Butor’s donation to the village has shaped its new cultural identity, bringing coherence to speeches and projects. The school, the library, the mansion, Butor house, will reshape the town center’s geography and history. These buildings participate in a strong symbolic representation of the territory, forming the “Butor Archipelago”.
The desire to inscribe Lucinges in its modern time, without giving up the génie du lieu, allows the implementation of contemporary architecture as an expression of the local project. It is not a marketing process. These remarkable circumstances allow architects to work in the center of the village through successive projects. Incremental additions are an opportunity to materialize a thought: to make contemporary architecture a process of regeneration of identity. This concept is composed of gradually constituted logics connecting the projects to an unwritten rule. The criticism of previous achievements fuels the global thought for future projects. The emergence of those islands reveals the archipelago.

Ostana e Topolò: hardware, software e welfare nelle comunità di “ritorno”

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Ostana and Topolò: hardware, software and welfare in “return” communities

Ostana and Topolò are two small villages at the far ends of the Alps that have a macroscopic point in common, not so obvious for Highland areas: the reversal of the trend of demographic decline. It is not just about numbers, but rather meanings: for these communities to be reborn, it was crucial to act simultaneously both on the tangible dimension of the place – with the restoration and reuse of the architectural heritage – and on the intangible one, with the introduction of new activities, functions and collective usage. The widespread design and restoration of the architectural heritage, together with the presence of aggregative and social-spatial foci, is what characterizes these two experiences. These spaces, located within the settlement fabric, are configured as reference points for the community: they are an expression of a need still present in the contemporary world, and are themselves, in turn, capable of generating new processes. Casa Juliova in Topolò and Lou Pourtoun in Ostana are the most significant social foci of the two villages: two different ways of interpreting the reuse of the local architectural heritage, both objects of a “memory and creation strategy” (Choay, 1995). The two experiences demonstrate how the “physical” intertwining between culture and welfare is a winning strategy in the revitalization and self-centered regeneration of Highland areas. Are marginal territories ready to face the next socio-environmental challenges?


Valades ousitanes, architettura e rigenerazione

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Valades ousitanes, architecture and regeneration

Only less than half a century has passed since the famous book by Nuto Revelli Il mondo dei vinti was published, in 1977. A symbolic work, which summed up with powerful evocative efficacy the dramatic process of depopulation and dissolution of traditional Alpine societies during the twentieth century. A process that centered around the valleys of Carnia, the south-east of France, and especially the Piedmont’s valleys of the Cuneo area, with drop-out rates that would reach as high as 80-90% of the population. A little over forty years have passed by since Revelli’s book was published, and a lot seems to have changed since then. Today many prestigious and successful tourist and winter destinations are experiencing a growing crisis in terms of image and public, whereas the once neglected Valades ousitanes live an unprecedented blooming season, focused on enhancing their trio of natural, historical, and cultural heritage. Maira Valley, Ostana in the Po Valley, Paraloup and Rittana in the Stura Valley, the upper Varaita Valley: rebirth is taking place in all the Occitan valleys, with interesting resettlement processes that were initiated by the so-called «new mountaineers». This renaissance of the Occitan valleys is accompanied by new forms of architecture that focus on the themes of recovery and reuse of their heritage, of dialectical confrontation with environmental and historical contexts, not forgetting contemporary and technological innovation.

La costruzione dell’abitabilità in Val Bregaglia nel XX secolo

The construction of habitability in Val Bregaglia in the 20th century

Both urbanized Alpine territories and cities share the need for a continuous renewal of spaces, and the theme of the regeneration of mountain areas is all the more topical due to the change in the ways of inhabiting such places. In order to play an active role in these transformations, contemporary architecture should take into account the interpretation of both the landscape and the urban fabric. Among the architect’s analysis tools, comparison with the past plays a significant role, and especially in the Alpine valleys, where the circulation of ideas is sometimes slower or “overdue” compared to dynamic urban realities.
The occasional presence of professionals coming from other locations, often from cities, can be considered an opportunity to renew the local architectural culture; these architectures materialize perspectives “from an outside eye” and fresh interpretations of places. In the Alpine valleys, tourism and the exploitation of water resources are two themes often related to the presence of “infiltrations”: although Val Bregaglia is fairly untouched by tourism development, it provides some examples of holiday homes and bears the signs of large infrastructural interventions related to the exploitation of water resources.
During the twentieth century, there were no resident architects in Val Bregaglia. After the economic crisis of the years between the two world wars, design activities saw the intervention of architects such as Bruno Giacometti (Stampa, 1907-Zollikon, 2012), Peppo Brivio (Lugano 1923-2016), Tita Carloni (Rovio 1931-Mendrisio 2012) and Pierre Zoelly (Zurich 1923-2003).
More recently, Miller & Maranta (Basel), H.J. Ruch (St. Moritz) and Lazzarini (Samedan) also carried out projects in this territory.

Marginalità e memoria come valori progettuali nell’esperienza di Gion A. Caminada a Vrin

Marginality and memory as planning values in Gion A. Caminada’s Vrin experience

The article investigates the regeneration project that was carried out in Vrin, throughout the Alpine context. It deals particularly with architect Gion A. Caminada’s modes of action. Caminada had a major role in the Vrin design process in his earlier career. Through the interpretation of the existing anthropic patterns, the architect was able to define some useful spatial basics of contemporary living. Vrin’s experience gives us the possibility to discuss some preeminent topics about the reinvention of architectural past elements, that enable us to improve future life.

Dorferneuerung zwischen Erhalten und Gestalten

Il rinnovamento dei villaggi: tra conservazione e progettazione

They are high-profile supporters of an architecture developed from existing structures, and both of them think of their work as a social task to a considerable degree: they are Armando Ruinelli (* 1954), who has been running an architectural office in Soglio (Bregaglia) since 1982, and Gion A. Caminada (* 1957), who has been working as an architect, town planner and construction consultant in Vrin (Lumnezia) since the beginning of the 1990s. After their “years of apprenticeship” in Zurich, they both returned to their home villages, where not only did they carry out projects, but they also got involved in community issues. Initially, they both worked exclusively in their home valleys, but today they are known and sought after beyond their country’s borders. The interest in the future of the peripheral Alpine valleys has remained a central aspect of their work.
A conversation about village regeneration, townscape protection and political commitment, recorded by Ludmila Seifert, Managing Director of the association Bündner Heimatschutz (Homeland Protection of the canton of Grisons).


Futuro e rigenerazione

Siamo al centro di un processo che ancora ci vede timidi, un po’ impacciati. L’abbiamo inaugurato dieci anni fa, forse più, dicendo che i nostri borghi alpini non potevano continuare a essere dimenticati. Presidente Uncem era Lido Riba, Assesso  re regionale alla Montagna Bruna Sibille. C’erano ancora 48 Comunità montane in  Piemonte. Per gli appassionati di numeri, bisogna aggiungere tre zeri per identificare un potenziale numero di immobili sui quali intervenire. C’era allora il primo embrione dell’Istituto di Architettura Montana. Vivo e decisivo. Ci siamo scelti subito. Così nel 2008 la Regione Piemonte prima in Italia ha scelto di investire oltre 30 milioni di euro per rigenerare i borghi montani, i villaggi alpini e appenninici. Una grande novità copiata da tutte le Regioni italiane. Non riprendiamo qui tutta la storia. È stata scritta innumerevoli volte e registrata in diversi volumi e sul sito borghialpini.it.

A questo primo passo, ne sono seguiti altri. Il primo per concludere quei lavori in 35 cantieri di borghi, a causa anche di un bando difficilissimo e troppa burocrazia. Il secondo per guardare a tutte le iniziative attorno a borghi delle Alpi e degli Appennini, anche al di fuori del Piemonte, che si stavano muovendo, spinti da privati ed Enti locali. Il terzo per concludere una mappatura organica del “potenziale”, che Uncem ha presentato a gennaio, descrivendo analiticamente oltre 4mila borghi piemontesi. Un processo da estendere a tut  to il Paese.

Non dobbiamo però perderci in dieci anni di buone pratiche e ottimi interventi. Tutti narrati  on line e su tanti saggi. I punti fermi devono però essere chiari. Ne sintetizzo cinque. Sfide e urgenze per il patrimonio e la nostra montagna. Futuro.

La prima. Recuperare borghi e singoli immobili  va molto bene, è utile. Ma prima dobbiamo capire a cosa e a chi servono. Molti borghi rivitalizzati negli ultimi dieci anni non sono vivi come avremmo voluto. Pezzi di Alpi occidentali, soprattutto   in Piemonte continuano a spopolarsi. Contrastare l’abbandono con adeguate politiche è una necessità per il quale occorre unire ingredienti diversi. Quello della rigenerazione dei borghi è uno, ma deve essere oggetto di un pensiero e di una opportuna pianificazione. Non si va a caso rigenerando qualsiasi cosa.

Qui viene alla mano un’altra urgenza. Investire fondi pubblici va bene ma bisogna evitare i bandi come quello fatto da Regione Piemonte nel 2018 con fondi del PSR. Troppo complesso (oltre 100 pagine), sei mesi di istruttoria, due canali di finanziamento che non servono certo a rivitalizzare luoghi per nuove comunità. Perché con 11 milioni di euro sono stati messi insieme progetti per la realizzazione e il miglioramento delle opere di urbanizzazione e degli spazi aperti a uso pubblico delle borgate montane e per strutture culturali-ricreative. Le poche risorse disponibili (che in avvio di PSR non erano state previste e che sono state inserite grazie a un’azione di lobby da parte di Uncem) vanno investite bene. Meglio. Vale per la nuova programmazione.

Terzo punto. Appunto, cosa facciamo nel settennato europeo 2021-2027. Se l’Europa vuole insistere sugli smart villagesdovrà capire che i nostri paesi e i nostri villaggi sono cosa diversa rispet   to ad altri Paesi UE. Hanno natura architettonica, sociale, storica molto diversa rispetto ai villaggi delle campagne ungheresi e delle grandi distese francesi. I borghi alpini italiani sono diversi da quelli svizzeri e tedeschi. I Comuni hanno già fatto investimenti, ma per renderli smart c’è bisogno in primo luogo di colmare i divari digitali, portare nuovi servizi e opportunità. Soprattutto avere qualcuno che ci viva. Ecco la prima forma di smartness dei borghi. Viverli.

Per rigenerare secondo moderni stili, non chiudersi nel passatismo, non farlo tanto per dire che abbiamo ridato vita a quel borgo, servono strategie. Anche per fare investimenti privati che abbiano  un senso di futuro e non finiscano contro un muro. Soldi ce ne sono pochi e trovare nuovi modelli di investimento privati richiede un pensiero attorno al modello economico. Per investire in un borgo – farne un resort, ad esempio – non valgono i tempi di ritorno di un centro commerciale, di un outlet, di un albergone di periferia, come non ha senso immaginare che le banche possano farsi una risata (o quasi) quando si propone loro di individua re equity per un villaggio green & smart a 1300 metri di altitudine che deve rinascere grazie alla lungimiranza di uno o più imprenditori. È un quarto fronte difficilissimo che si affronta con un cambio di passo culturale degli istituti di credito, non certo capaci negli ultimi anni di andare incontro ai territori. Dai quali se ne sono andati con i loro sportelli. Che capiscano l’importanza – le banche – di una serie di investimenti su borghi e patrimonio dei territori, è da costruire.

Ultimo punto per il futuro (del nostro lavoro). Nei paesi delle valli, nei Comuni come nelle frazioni, dobbiamo ripensare i modelli e i modi di erogazione dei servizi. Scuola, trasporti, sanità. I tre pilastri della Strategia nazionale Aree interne. L’emergenza coronavirus ha riportato al centro il dibattito attorno all’organizzazione in particolare di servizi scolastici e sistema sanitario. Di certo nelle valli e nei territori rurali il ripensamento è complesso. Ripensare senza togliere. Potenziare senza rendere più rarefatto. Addensare senza costruire sistemi complessi dove è rimasto nessuno. Sulla scuola, ho sempre visto nelle “scuole di valle” una preziosa risposta. E nelle “case della salute” – unite a piattaforme per il volo notturno dell’elisoccorso e a potenziamento della presenza di medici di base – un antidoto all’eliminazione dei piccoli ospedali. Non ovunque però. Sagomare l’organizzazione dei servizi è il grande compito della politica. Come questi si riconducono sui territori è frutto di scelte che hanno ben poco a che fare con demagogia, social, facile esposizione mediatica. La complessità è evidente. E la politica la tiene lontana, di questi tempo.

Va di pari passo, questa urgenza, la quinta, con le altre precedenti quattro sfide. Programmare e pianificare sono compiti della politica che deve trovare risorse. Pubbliche prima di tutto, ma anche private, come abbiamo detto. Entrano in gioco modelli di presenza dello Stato diversi che abbiamo finora solo sperimentato in qualche best case nato dalla Snai o da altri percorsi di territorio. Di certo il pensiero non può essere municipale. Riorganizzare i servizi va oltre i confini amministrativi. Riusciremo a dare la giusta dimensione ai campanili e costruire attenzioni sulle politiche di territorio? Di nuovo entra in gioco la politica che usa le migliori teste e capacità per definire politiche per la montagna. Le abbiamo chieste – le politiche – con una Piattaforma che è nata dagli Stati generali della Montagna convocati a fine gennaio dal Ministro Boccia a Roma. E che prende spunto dalle mozioni di tutti i partiti approvate all’unanimità a Montecitorio il 29 gennaio. Il percorso di rigenerazione dei borghi nasce in questo nuovo scenario che deve vedere la politica concretizzare proposte e istanze già varate dal Parlamento. Apriamo una fase nuova che non può essere ridotta a pensiero. Deve farsi azione, per i territori e le comunità che vogliono restare, tornare.

Alla ricerca della distanza perduta. Rigenerare luoghi, persone e immaginari del riabitare alpino

In search of the lost distance. Regenerating places, people and images related to Alpine reinhabitation

Living in a territory means being able to take part in the “functioning of citizenship” related to moving, feeding, saving, buying, participating, taking care, thinking about the future, investing in life plans, assuming social and political responsibility. Living in a territory is the way in which rights related to the status of “resident” become ways of “being or doing” that constitute the well-being of people as citizens. Citizenship is a daily opportunity, dependent on the characteristics of the context. Irreducibly different from the romantic images that described it as isolated, remote, physically separated from the modern world of cities and social change, in the last seven centuries the Alps have built a complex civilization around the multidimensional axis of the “right distance”. Today, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, such “right distance” can be an antidote to the disorganized and individualistic escape of the wealthy classes who can afford it. Re-inhabiting the marginalized places becomes instead the result of a political reversal of the gaze, of a radical and collective change of perspective.


I servizi nelle Alpi italiane: quali e dove? Idee per uno scenario post-pandemico

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

Facilities in the Italian Alps: which ones and where? Ideas for a post-pandemic scenario

In the rural mountains, middle- and lower-level facilities (general practitioners, pharmacies, schools, supermarkets, etc.) play a crucial role. However, in the Italian Alps they only exist in a third of the municipalities, mostly located in the lower valleys. The few centers which include these core services are located in the innermost regions, the ones that ensure basic conditions of habitability for 45% of the Italian Alpine municipalities: they are the municipalities of the territories classified by the report Montagne Italia 2017 as “extreme” and “rarefied”. Welfare interventions must take into account this particular distribution of supply centers, their gravitations, the consequent demand for collective transport and the alternatives offered by teleservices. Following the pandemic, the scenario has changed. It can be assumed that the attractive factors of mountain areas and the repulsive factors of the city will both be enhanced. It is likely that the demand for public services, mobility and digital infrastructures will tend to change the composition and distribution of the offer, with particularly strong effects on the Alpine municipalities of internal mountain areas and on the centers within which residents gravitate. The main cities in Alpine areas already serve a large number of inhabitants, which include residents and tourists; this is the reason why these effects will be noticeable elsewhere, mostly in the appearance of important factors in the “functional upgrading” of smaller Alpine cities and semi-urban foothill centers.


Sulla centralità di spazio e territorio nel progetto di rigenerazione delle montagne e delle aree interne

Archalp - Rivista internazionale di architettura e paesaggio alpino - Bononia University Press

On the centrality of space and territory in the project of regeneration of mountains and internal areas


The crisis brought on by Covid-19 has dramatically highlighted how the territorial dimension has long been excluded from national policies to be reduced to a mere diagrammatic and abstract space to be reduced in a mere diagrammatic and abstract space. An unphysicality of things that also goes through philosophies of smart or replicable best practices, in the idea that it is enough to follow a procedure to solve the complexities of contemporary life.
The crisis has also brought to light the theme of internal, mountain and marginal areas, which have already received strong and growing attention in recent years.
All the researches of the last few years demonstrate how the frontier of innovation is placed along the margin lines, in territories such as the Alpine and Apennine ones: regeneration projects based on culture, community cooperatives, resettlement that arises on the recovery of legacy and on the new technologies. These are experiments as fragile as the places they insist on, but where the territorial and spatial dimension plays an active and new role, which should be carefully observed thanks to the new openings it can offer.
The essay identifies some nodes that arise from a long process of analysis and field experiences, and which intertwine two strategic issues: on the one hand, the need for policies capable of actively addressing the issue of territories – overcoming the contrast between socio-economic and spatial disciplines –, and on the other hand the project of reactivation and regeneration of mountain and marginal spaces.