The Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture (ISA), founded in 2011, has a profile inspired by similar famous and long-established institutions, such as the History Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art (HTC) of the MIT in Boston or the Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur (gta) of the Zurich Polytechnic, which are still operating successfully after decades of activity.
The various disciplines presented by the ISA – including the history of art and architecture, philosophy, political thought, the visual and performing arts of the 20th and 21st centuries, to name only a few such fields – are intended to develop and implement concepts and instruments to enhance the understanding of the physical, historical and social contexts of artistic and architectural practices.
Without limiting their fields of study to any period or geographical area in particular, the ISA's purpose, thanks to the multiple disciplinary skills of its members, engaged in a constant dialogue with each other, is to foster a fuller understanding of the complex meanings of artistic and architectural action, while also promoting the integration of historical and theoretical culture into the educational life and the design debate at the Academy of Architecture.
Considering the geographical position of the Academy, at the crossroads between northern and southern Europe, particular attention is paid to the influence of the Mediterranean on the artistic and architectural cultures of Europe through the ages and, increasingly, in the rest of the world. In its day, this was stressed in the significant volume, published in 1945, just after World War II, by the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes in London in a book titled England and the Mediterranean Tradition: “The word ‘Mediterranean’ summons up before the mind’s eye the map of that sea on the shores of which arose the civilizations of the ancient world ... [T]he word is intended to cover the tradition whence Europe has drawn her nourishment through the centuries, in its antique, early Christian, mediaeval, Renaissance and post-Renaissance forms ... connected by the theme of the all-pervading Mediterranean influence. Whether in sculpture or in painting, in architecture or landscape gardening, in the sonnet or the masque, in art theory or philosophy, history and religion, the workings of that influence are traced. We see it constantly revived by fresh influences from the south, as Italy gathers up and transmits to succeeding generations the heritage of the ancient world, and undergoing many transformations during the passing of centuries. The persistence of the Mediterranean tradition ... through all the vicissitudes of her history is a witness to the essential unity of European civilization.“ Formulated at the end of one of the most profound and violent cultural and political crises that Europe has ever known, for that traumatised generation of intellectuals, which included influential figures such as Fritz Saxl, Edgar Wind and Rudolf Wittkower, the “Mediterranean tradition” once again served as an inexhaustible subject of study and inspiration as well as a model of cultural unity far beyond the constraints and limitations of the 19th-century nation state, which was, to a certain extent, the source of many of the conflicts that led to the decline of Europe in the mid-20th century.
The ISA’s historical and theoretical programme, conducted at all levels (BSc, MSc and PhD), seeks to study the social and physical context of the built environment as well as the philosophical, political and material context in which artworks are created.
Notable activities carried out by the Institute include: the coordination of training in history and theory of art and architecture in the BSc and MSc courses; supervision of research work and PhD and post-doctoral work in particular; the organisation of thematic lessons, cycles of lectures, such as the ISA Lectures and conferences; the establishment of a chair of advanced study for visiting professors; the Borromini Chair, reserved for intellectual figures of particular importance; the creation of a platform for competitive research; the publication of studies and research in specific editorial series.
This set of commitments and initiatives make the ISA a valuable instrument for supplementing the research and teaching of history and theory as vital components of contemporary architectural culture and its transmission.
Prof. Dr. Christoph Frank
Institute for the History and Theory
for the Art and Architecture
- Istituto di storia e teoria dell'arte e dell'architettura
- Accademia di architettura
Via Alfonso Turconi 36
- 6850 Mendrisio
- +4158 666 5890
- +4158 666 5868