Structure and contents
Studies at the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture are divided into semesters.
The first two offer an introductory training, followed by four semesters to complete the Bachelor of Science (BSc, three-year degree) and another four for the Master of Science (MSc). The last semester is devoted to the Diploma project. They are supplemented by two semesters of practical work outside the school.
Studying at the Academy of Architecture
The Academy of Architecture forms part of the USI Università della Svizzera italiana. The USI has close ties with other universities in Switzerland, Italy and other countries, reflecting the rapid growth of its international authority, distinguishing itself both by the development of research programs and by the important recognition awarded to its professors. To the guarantees of quality and rigour that have always been inseparable from the reputation of Swiss universities, the Academy of Architecture and the USI in general have added a simple administrative structure and a system of communication in which the student is always at the centre.
Mendrisio, a small town midway between Lake Como and Lugano, some 60 kilometres from Milan and Malpensa airport, occupies a privileged point of exchange between the Mediterranean world and Central Europe. The outstanding tradition of cultural openness in this region is confirmed in the architectural sphere by the prestigious traditions of its architects: from the Maestri Comacini of the Middle Ages to the protagonists of the Renaissance and Baroque down to major names of twentieth-century Razionalismo and the contemporary Ticinese school of architecture. This international vocation in the region's history today makes the Academy a new laboratory, thanks to the presence of professors of international provenance as well as students from dozens of different countries. This means that the interaction of teaching and socialization is especially rich at the school.
Over thirty nationalities are represented in the student body and the teaching staff. They make the Academy of Architecture and the other faculties of the USI an especially useful centre of cultural exchange in a period like the present, which has to train new professional and intellectual figures, to cope with the processes of globalization. The faculty members are outstanding for their authority and international reputation. For this reason Italian, which is widely used in most of the courses, is replaced by English in specific cases which favour their use in teaching. The school's cultural receptiveness thus also trains students in greater linguistic competence. This is made possible by the close teaching relationship established with the faculty members. The dimensions of the Academy and the USI's faculties are carefully controlled so as to prevent the kind of overcrowding that today penalizes numerous schools. There are some 700 students in Mendrisio, which means that classes can be kept to a limited number of students. The architectural design studios also contain a maximum of about 25 students, whose work is supervised by a professor, in every case an eminent architect, and at least two assistants. In the different fields of teaching it thus applies a "familial" model in which the teachers' role as tutors guarantees formative protocols of the highest standard.
The Academy of Architecture is located in various administrative, educational, research, study and service buildings in the centre of the small town of Mendrisio, most of them laid out around a very fine urban park. This arrangement makes the school similar to certain prestigious university campuses that we find above all in small English cities or the United States. The Academy's location in a setting close to yet outside the metropolitan areas facilitates student life, while the young people have easy access to the nearby cities. The various buildings on the Mendrisio campus are laid out around the urban park, Villa Argentina (with the faculty board and offices), Palazzo Canavée and Palazzo Turconi (teaching facilities) and the Library. Nearby are the Archivio del Moderno, a foundation that extends the school's work in historical research, and the Student Residence. The Residence accommodates over 70 students in studio apartments, while the town of Mendrisio and the environs offer connected rental accommodation with good connections at far more accessible prices than in the metropolitan areas.
The first three years, which lead to a Bachelor's degree in Architecture, carry a total workload evaluation of 180 ECTS credits. The Bachelor conferred by the USI Università della Svizzera italiana is compatible with the Swiss and international University system.
In the first year of the BA, students will have the opportunity to verify their aptitudes as they establish the theoretical and practical foundations of the architect's education. It will present introductory lessons in the various subject areas of the Academy's syllabus and gain practical drafting skills.
In the subsequent semesters, students will develop their theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Courses in historical-humanistic and technical-scientific subjects cover the following subject areas: Theory of Art and Architecture, Culture of the Territory, Philosophy, Construction and Technology, Structures, Ecology, Mathematics and Computer Science. To ensure continuity and coherence in the educational process, the theoretical courses are distributed uniformly across the span of all the years' study, becoming increasingly specialized across the sequence of semesters and offering greater choice of optional subjects in the two-years of the Master.
Architectural design will be of central importance through the whole BA. It is organized in design studios of 25 students guided by professors-architects of international fame. In terms of course loads and credits earned, the design studios amount to half of the course requirements.
The course of studies includes a period of work experience in a firm for a minimum total duration of two semesters, to enable students to acquire the essential skills in using drafting instruments.
For a full list of courses, please visit http://www.arc.usi.ch/en/didattica.
The system of credits, applied according to the model in use in the European university system, requires half of the ects to be acquired in the design studios and the other half in the lecture courses, which in turn are equally subdivided between the historical-humanistic and technical-scientific subjects. This approach to teaching is clear and balanced while also lending itself to introducing variants whenever new requirements are judged useful to the educational process. It is so organized as to train "generalist architects" capable of taking their place in the complex sector of contemporary architectural design with professional competence combined with an outstanding individual critical capacity.
Semester study plan Design Studio
50% = 15 ects
Design Studio Historical-Humanistic Courses
25% = 7.5 ects
Theory of Art and Architecture Culture of the Territory Philosophy Others
25% = 7.5 ects
Construction and Technology Structures Others
For further information about courses and exams please click here.
The official teaching language is Italian, although certain courses and studios may be held in English. Also thanks to the international environment, the many foreign-language students at the Academy have never found language a social or academic obstacle. The best graduate students have consistently been foreign speaking (German, Japanese, Israeli etc.) The Academy organizes each year a two week Italian language course for all new non-Italian speaking students at the Mendrisio campus.