18 May 2021

On the foundations of composition:
Peter Zumthor’s primo anno course at the Academy of Mendrisio

IUAV Venice, Accademia Mendrisio

Respondent: Lucia Pennati (Accademia Mendrisio)

In 1996, the newly founded Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, located in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, invited Peter Zumthor to be the professor in charge of one of the school’s first three design studios. What took form from that was a unique educationa experience, conducted by Zumthor as a didactic project spanning a three-year period - the academic years of 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99 - and comprehending a sequence of 19 exercises designed to teach students the foundations of composition. The research is structured around this event, exploring the activity of Atelier Zumthor’s primo anno cours through the analysis of unpublished material rediscovered in the Academy’s archives and investigating how the principles contained in didactics may offer an interpretation of the author’s architecture - thus assuming teaching as a fundamental dimension of architectural research.

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