Landscape and Structures. A personal inventory by Jürg Conzett photographed by Martin Linsi

Servizio comunicazione istituzionale

10 Aprile 2019

The exhibition "Landscape and Structures - A personal inventory by Jürg Conzett, photographed by Martin Linsi, with 22 models by Lydia conzett Gehring" has been presented today at Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio of Università della Svizzera italiana. The exhibition is promoted by USI Academy of Architecture and will be open from Friday, 12 April to Sunday, 7 July 2019. It was presented to the media by USI Rector Boas Erez, the Director of the Academy of Architecture Riccardo Blumer, the Dean’s office coordinator Marco della Torre, and by the authors Jürg Conzett, Martin Linsi and Lydia Conzett-Gehring. A rich documentation of bridges, viaducts, walkways and galleries built in Switzerland from the end of the 18th century until today, is presented through 160 large-format photographs, videos and 22 wooden models of bridges designedby Conzett Bronzini Partner AG office. The works on display were selected by Jürg Conzett, who holds an honorary doctor at USI and is Professor at the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio for the academic year 2018-19.

The exhibition unfolds through several themed sections occupying the three floors of the Teatro dell’architettura and presenting a rich repertoire of infrastructure from around Switzerland, selected over the years by the well-known structural engineer Jürg Conzett and documented together with photographer Martin Linsi; all the featured works stand out by virtue of the strong bond they have established with the landscape around them. They comprise bridges, footbridges, tunnels, retaining walls and passageways, all structures that serve the purposes of communication and connection. Interest is mainly focused on engineering works with architectural aspirations, being structures that on one hand directly address issues of engineering and economic efficiency, while at the same time evoking particular sensations and aesthetic-architectural reflections in those who observe them.

The exhibition testifies to the constructions that have held a particular significance in Jürg Conzett’s professional training and career. In this sense the selection of works on display is subjective, making no claims to drawing up an exhaustive list of the panorama of Swiss infrastructure. The exhibition presents documentation on bridges constructed from the late 18th century up to today and includes works by some of the names from the great Swiss engineering-construction tradition, from Karl Etzel to Robert Maillart, and from Alexandre Sarrasin to Rino Tami and the Conzett Bronzini Partner AG studio itself, in Chur.

Originally planned for the Swiss Pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, from 2010 to today the exhibition has gradually been expanded to include new subjects, such as the section dedicated to the “Trutg dil Flem” project, a new hiking trail that runs alongside the Flembach river at Flims, for which Jürg Conzett helped to plot the route and planned and constructed a series of footbridges. This edition of the exhibition also includes video clips and a series of 22 wooden models of bridges constructed by Jürg Conzett and Gianfranco Bronzini during their career as design engineers.

The 160 black and white large-scale photographs on display in the exhibition are the result of a series of trips through Switzerland which Jürg Conzett and Martin Linsi made over the year 2010. The exhibition is divided into 23 “rooms” showed in a chronological sequence according to the order in which the photographs were taken, beginning with the winter landscape of the Sittertobel between St. Gallen and Herisau, and ending in early summer on the Susten Pass. In all those sections, each of which has a different theme, certain reflections recur, for example the fact that the townscape acquires greater monumentality when the observer-user approaches it by crossing a bridge that stands above the town, such as the Fürstenland bridge in St. Gallen, for example, or the Aare bridge in Aarburg. Similarly, the exhibition documents the continual interplay between the cultural heritage movement and the requirements of civil engineering design: a prime example of this is the Swiss Federal Railway’s Sitter viaduct, constructed of large arches in reinforced concrete, with stone cladding.One of the individual cases featured is the Ponte della Crotta, which was rediscovered on the valley floor of the Valle di Muggio in the Ticino Canton, a bridge that has for some time fallen into disuse. It is a delicate structure in steel, suspended between imposing stone-faced pillars which, although covered with vegetation, still emanate all their original constructive and figurative power.

The practice of using local materials and traditional artisan construction techniques is also evident in the Dorf bridge in Vals, an actual extension of the town square, constructed with slabs of Gneiss stone from the Valais and reinforced concrete, both skilfully used for a function that is load-bearing yet also aesthetically attractive. Designed by Jürg Conzett in consultation with Peter Zumthor, the Dorf bridge introduces one of the central topics of the exhibition: how civil engineering works can draw inspiration from the constant interaction between their design and construction tradition and the landscape where they are located.

To complete the exhibition, visitors can consult a rich portfolio, systematically put together by Jürg Conzett, of technical documents, bulletins and descriptive and academic articles about the items in the exhibition. The exhibition was originally made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Confederation’s Federal Office for Culture.

The book “Landschaft und Kunstbauten / Landscape and Structures”  will be on sale at the exhibition: it was published by the Federal Office of Culture in Berne for the exhibition in the Swiss Pavilion at the 12th International Exhibition of Architecture at the Venice Biennale, 2010. Publishers Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich; ISBN 978-3-85881-321-3. Hardback, 20.5 x 30.5 cm, 272 pages, illustrations in black and white Bilingual edition German and English Exhibition price 40 CHF/Euro

For high resolution pictures: 

Jürg Conzett. Born in 1956 in Aarau and a native of Schiers, Jürg Conzett studied civil engineering at the EPF in Lausanne and at the ETH in Zurich, where he graduated in 1980. After graduating he worked in the studio of architect Peter Zumthor in Haldenstein until he opened his own engineering studio in 1988 in Chur. Now, together with his professional partner Gianfranco Bronzini, he directs the Conzett Bronzini Partner AG studio, with about 25 employees, developing designs for bridges and restoring existing bridges and structures for buildings.

Martin Linsi. Martin Linsi was born in 1956 in Zurich. He studied photography at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design in England, graduating in 1978. Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer with a studio in Einsiedeln. An important subject in his work are human traces in the landscape.

Lydia Conzett-Gehring. Lydia Conzett-Gehring was born in 1957 in Chur and completed her apprenticeship as a carpenter at the Christian Messmer workshop in Tenna. Following this she specialized in the creation of models. In her workshop she mainly creates models for the Conzett Bronzini Partner AG engineering studio.

With the aim of offering a tool to foster cultural debate about architecture, the Università della Svizzera italiana - USI - and the Teatro dell’Architettura Foundation decided to create a new building, the Teatro dell’Architettura, on the university campus of the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio. Alongside the educational activities and research carried out in the university, this initiative is intended to boost training opportunities, particularly as regards exhibitions and seminars, and at the same time to give visibility to new trans-disciplinary interests that are having an increasingly important influence on the design process and are redefining the social role of architecture. The Teatro dell’architettura was designed by architect Mario Botta and stands next to the existing Palazzo Turconi: the building has a diameter of 27 metres and a surface area of about 3,000 square metres. The spaces within it are suitable for a variety of uses, for events that may be connected or independent. The activities of the Teatro dell’architettura began in autumn 2018. All the cultural events will be open to the public, thus reinforcing the foundations of a solid cultural vocation with regard to its own territory. The Teatro dell’architettura will also act as a platform for exchanges with other institutions for whom cultural affairs is a particular field of interest.

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