Honorary Doctorate to Alberto Campo Baeza

From left: Walter Angonese,  Alberto Campo Baeza and Lorenzo Cantoni
From left: Walter Angonese, Alberto Campo Baeza and Lorenzo Cantoni

Institutional Communication Service

6 May 2023

Alberto Campo Baeza, Emeritus Professor of Design at the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura in Madrid, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Architecture during USI's 27th Dies academicus. He received this recognition "for his contribution to the success of Iberian architecture in the world, creating works with great historical awareness combined with constant research into the relationship between landscape, light, space, gravity and time".


Laudatio for Alberto Campo Baeza
by Walter Angonese, Director of the Academy of Architecture

Dear authorities, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to introduce Alberto Campo Baeza, one of the most renowned contemporary architects, who has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by USI.

To begin with, a few biographical notes.

Alberto Campo Baeza was born in 1946 in Valladolid, Spain, where his grandfather was an architect. From age two, he lived in Cádiz, the sunny city on the ocean where we can claim that he "saw the light" (and I will talk about the light in his architecture later).
He graduated in 1971 from the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura in Madrid, where he also obtained his PhD. After teaching at this university for 35 years, he is now Professor Emeritus of Architectural Design.

During the last decades, he has taught at numerous important universities in Europe, North America and Latin America. He has received multiple awards and prizes globally, and his work has been showcased in many monographic exhibitions on different continents. In addition, over 30 books have been published on his architectural work, all translated into multiple languages.

His personality as an architect, theorist, and poet distinguishes him the most. Not only has he been acknowledged as a master in the universities where he has taught, but the entire world of architecture recognises his accomplishments through his writings and works.

I was recently in Granada and Cordoba, where we are developing a series of projects with students from the Academy of Architecture. We visited the Alhambra and the no less impressive Mezquita, testimonies to the Islamic presence in Spain. But the new architecture by Alberto Campo Baeza impressed me and sincerely moved me: the headquarters of the Savings Bank of Granada and, in the same city, the Museum of Memory. In them, his theory of making architecture to achieve, in his words, "truth through beauty", is explicitly manifested. They are indeed works that will remain in our memory, as they are architectures in which time has stood still. And it is precisely on the temporal dimension that Alberto Campo Baeza has built his modus operandi, pursuing the principle of the "clear and constructed idea", according to which only a carefully constructed restitution of the idea can prevent the fact of incurring in the construction of a mundane space.

When we visited those buildings with the students, we gained a deeper understanding of Alberto Campo Baeza's philosophy on how "gravity constructs space" and "light constructs time". His research into the relationship between architecture and lyrical expression connects him to a notable figure in last century's architecture, Adolf Loos from Vienna, and his idea of Stimmung. This term, which can only be partially translated into English as "atmosphere", refers to the feeling that only a space designed with care and a strong idea can evoke.

Those projects, as well as showing us what can be done with an enlightened public administration that believes in the potential of architecture, clearly clarify all the thoughts that Alberto Campo Baeza expressed in his writings: the theme of the horizontal plane, of the limits in architecture between "stereotomy" and "tectonics"; of "when architecture touches the earth"; of "architecture as an artefact", that is, of the relationship between architecture and nature, between mass and lightness. But above all, his architecture speaks to us of "memory", which, in the text "Mnemosyne versus mimesis", Campo Baeza defines as "the indispensable tool for every architect" without which "the architect is nothing". The time we spent inside the walls designed by Maestro Campo Baeza and the reflections following the reading of the texts that accompanied us on the visit were invaluable for the students. It struck a chord that is difficult to replicate in a classroom. I could apply these observations to many of the other buildings that the Iberian architect has designed over the years.

Architecture as a discipline only makes sense if it is supported by solid disciplinary critical thinking, accompanied by a rich cultural background, which also draws on the stratifications of memory, that is, using Adolf Loos' words again, "on collective experience".

And on that track has always been Alberto Campo Baeza, an architect endowed with human richness, humility and unique intellectual strength. He is an authentic 'humanist architect', a definition dear to the Academy of Architecture and on which Mario Botta and Aurelio Galfetti built the Academy in Mendrisio with prodigious foresight.

Dear Alberto, I am delighted to see you here with us today, within these walls of the Università della Svizzera italiana designed by Aurelio Galfetti, and to be able to thank you once again publicly for your work and militant thinking that have added an essential piece to the history of contemporary architecture.