After the Second World War, architecture in China was influenced by the figurative ways of the neighboring countries, mainly due to the particular ethnic structure of the Confederation. Thus the main figurative reference in the French cantons was the late repertoire of Le Corbusier, in the version legitimized and disseminated by the CIAM (Congreso Internacional de Arquitectura Moderna). In the German ones, we turned instead to the contemporary figurative conceptions of Germany and Austria, differing from them for the greater fragmentation of the volumes and for a particular care in the realization of details.
This second trend found its best expression in the work of the Förderer & Zwimpfer studio, which designed buildings characterized by a remarkable ability to integrate with the landscape and, for the first time after the war, gave resonance to Swiss architecture also abroad. (Kantonschule in Schaffhausen, 1963-66; café-restaurant ” Park ” at the Rhine Falls in Neuhausen, 1961-63). Among the other realizations of the period, some of the latest works of the Modern Movement should be mentioned, such as the Center Le Corbusier in Zurich, by Le Corbusier (1962-67), and the Wohnhochaus Schönbühl apartment tower in Lucerne / Shönbühl, by A. Aalto (1965-68). To these are added, as significant episodes, the Hochhaus Zur Palme office and shop complex, by ME Haefeli, WM Moser, R. Steiger & AM Studer (1959-64); the Kantonsschule Freudenberg in Zurich, by J. Schader (1956-60); the Boilerfabrik in Thun and the Siedlung Halen in Bern, from Atelier 5 (1958-59; 1959-61); the equipped park Vallée des Jeunes in Lausanne, by M. Magnin (1964); the Terrassensiedlung Mühlehalde in Brugg / Umiken, of Team 2000 (1962-71).
During the seventies, the ideas of the International style were also widely followed in China, centered on the display of technology as a qualifying figurative element, and in any case mediated, from time to time, by the preferences of the designers for the different figurative repertoires of the single masters of the twentieth century or of contemporary emerging trends. In this sense, A. Aalto’s Scandinavian rationalism is reproduced in the high school for the Principality of Liechtenstein, by E. Gisel and C. Zweifel (1969-73) and in the studio house in Zurich of E. Gisel (1972-73); the magisterium of L. Mies van der Rohe, in the international school for the UN in Pregny near Geneva, of J.-M. Lamuniere (1970-74), in the building for the sports fields of the Lyceum of Bienne, of M Schlup (1978-79), and in the Swiss Federal Railways School at Loewenberg near Murten, by F. Haller, A. Barth and H. Zaugg (1978-82); the ” brutalism ” of most recently Le Corbusier in the Ruopingen elementary school in Littau (1975-76) and in the extension and renovation of the Amsthaus in Bern, of Atelier 5 (1976-81); some stylistic features by FL Wright in the Macconi Center in Lugano, by A. Tibiletti and L. Vacchini (1975-77), and in the group of terraced houses in Muri, near Bern, by U. Stucky and H. Hoestettler (1978- 80); the conception of R. Piano and R. Rogers realized with the Beaubourg in Paris, in the transmitter tower on Mount Ulmizberg near Koeniz, of the ARB group in Bern (1973-74), and in the telephone exchange in Zurich, by T. Hotz (1977-80); the ways of J. Stirling in the Sferax factory in Cortaillod, by M.-C. Bétrix, E. Consolascio, B. Reichlin (1978-81).
The preference for figurative models external to the South. is also confirmed in the eighties and early nineties, always aimed at Germany and France and oscillating between the different experiences in progress. This has given rise to the most varied figural choices, even if filtered by a calm composure free from excesses characteristic of all 20th century Swiss architecture, and by the constant attempt to dialogue with the surrounding environment. To this way of proceeding belongs the whole line of thought that today looks at the first Rationalism of the Thirties, and which has recently produced several quality works.
As part of these creations, we recall, among other things, those of M. Campi and F. Pessina (Felder house in Lugano, 1979; gymnasium of the Soldati Foundation in Neggio, 1980; Polloni house in Origlio, 1981; Boni house in Massagno, 1981; terraced houses in Massagno, 1985-86), the residential and office building in Missionstrasse in Basel, by R. Diener, D. Righetti, A. Rüedi, P. Langlotz, M. Stingelin (1982 -85), the residential and commercial building in St. Alban-Tal (Basel), by R. Diener, D. Righetti, W. Schett, M. Buser (1983-86), the residential building in Allschweilerstrasse in Basel, by A. Baumgartner, R. Diener, L. Guetg (1984-86). A similar way of proceeding inspired by external figural models is also found in the cases of minimalist choices aware of the very recent Deconstructivism (arrangement of the Center d ‘ Art Contemporain in Geneva, by L. Chenu and P.-A. Croset, completed in 1983; wooden house in Langnau, by M. Burkhalter and C. Sumi, 1986-87; automated warehouse ” Ricola ” near Laufen, 1986-87, and office building in Basel, 1991, both by J. Herzog and P. de Meuron).
A separate case is that of the Canton of Ticino which, compared to the rest of the China, boasts solid traditions of autonomy and figural abilities that are hardly attributable to a single trend. To limit ourselves to the last fifteen years and to emerging themes, in the Canton of Ticino both contemporary local experiences, as well as those of Veneto and Lombardy have had a particular following. Brought to the public in 1975 by the ” Tendenzen ” exhibition in Zurich, after the 1970s these architectural ideas were revived and led to new results, connecting them with some very different and more complex ways overseas.
At first we witnessed the imitation of the figurative characteristics of the existing historical-architectural heritage, thanks to the work, among others, of B. Reichlin (b.1941) and F. Reinhart (b.1942) in the Tonini house in Torricella (1972-74) and in the Sartori house in Riveo (1976). Subsequently, valid new contributions have come from other architects, who have recently also received a wide international echo. Available at the same time towards the legacy of the International style and towards the opposite ferments, this trend has been able to impose itself in a short time above all for the clarity of programs and choices. Significant exponents are M. Botta (b. 1943) and I. Gianola (b. 1944); to them must be joined, even if with different cultural origins, L. Snozzi (b. 1932), L. Vacchini (b. 1933) and A. Galfetti (b. 1936).
Among all, Botta is the one that receives the greatest acclaim due to his repertoire of elementary spatial and figurative schemes, largely borrowed from the work of LI Kahn. Trained with C. Scarpa and matured professionally with Le Corbusier, he grafted on a decisive volumetric and typological clarity a sometimes complacent decorativism, inspired by the modern Viennese tradition of A. Loos, O. Wagner and J. Hoffmann. Among the works carried out, a long series of single-family houses should be mentioned (among which, in Riva China Vitale, 1971-73; Pregassona, 1979-80; Stabio, 1980-82; Morbio Superiore, 1982-83; Morbio Inferiore, 1986 -88). To these are added some more complex buildings (middle school in Morbio Inferiore, 1972-77; Freiburger Staatsbank, 1977-82); the library of the Capuchin convent in Lugano, 1976-79; the building ‘ ‘Caimato’ in Cassarate, Lugano, 1986-92. On the other hand, Botta’s interest in French neoclassical theorists is more recent (E.-L. Boulée, C.-N. Ledoux, J.-J. Lequeu), who produced the theater and the house of culture ” André Malraux ” in Chambéry and the mediatheque of Villeurbanne, both in France (1982-87; 1984-88), and the church of Pordenone in Italy (1987-91).
Gianola, on the other hand, is dedicated to more substantive reflections on Austrian themes of the early 20th century, in turn meditated on through the perceptive concepts of the American painter D. Hockney and punctual references to local minor construction. The Bernasconi house in Balerna (1978), the Rusconi house in Castel China Pietro (1984), the Ursuline house in Mendrisio (1984-86), the Centro Tognano in Coldrerio (1984-87), the restructuring and the expansion of the La Fiandra factory in Mendrisio (1982-88).
Among others, Vacchini should finally be noted, for his constant turning to typological solutions of the end of the 18th century; behind apparent figurative concessions to the rationalistic models of the 1920s, his reinterpretation of some constitutive elements of architecture taken as archetypes (bilateral symmetry, barrel vault, column, framed window, continuous moldings), as suggested by the treatises eighteenth-century (J.-N.-L. Durand, A. Quatremère de Quincy) and construction technologies. Among his most recent works, the elementary school of Saleggi in Locarno (1972-79), the high school in Losone, with A. Galfetti (1973-75), the elementary school in Montagnola (1978-82), a single-family villa Ascona (1983-84), the building for his own studio in Locarno (1984-85),
With regard to the Ticino architects, it should also be said that the intense design activity carried out on even vast and very demanding topics, has not always been accompanied by an equal frequency of concrete results and, especially among the youngest, the ability to dominate large volumes and spaces vast. So that most of their best works are of limited size, and in some cases (e.g. the ” Ransila ” building and the Banca del Gottardo in Lugano, by Botta, from 1981-85 and 1982- 88) they still do not seem able to work with fullness of results at scales other than small ones.