The architecture, preservation, restoration and planning work carried out by Luigi Snozzi (b 1932) at Monte Carasso – a suburb of Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino in southern Switzerland – stands for a distinctive balance of categorical modernism and a perceptive corroboration of extant urban character that is well nigh matchless.
His involvement began in 1978 with a request to provide advice on the adaptation of an historic convent into an elementary school. Over an ever expanding brief including a master plan, new road linkages and many buildings Snozzi’s refusal to lapse into architectural historicism and compromise has been noticeable. With their precisely articulated forms and materials his architectural works are essentially modern but, significantly, sited to reinforce established settlement patterns and put in place a sense of urban continuity.
Snozzi’s “reading” of the place, identifying its historic centre, and his careful response to things that need to be built at the town scale is as much in evidence as the essential character of the architectural elements that he has situated in Monte Carasso.
Others have observed that this work belongs to “… an intellectual tradition of going to the essence of things” according to Peter Zumthor and Kenneth Frampton coined the term “neo-realist” in an early essay on Luigi Snozzi’s work, but one suspects these attempts are more to do with an attempt to describe an architectural aesthetic as they are to do with characterising Snozzi’s place-making ability.
Along the way Snozzi has introduced other architects such as Mario Botta to the process and has even inspired an up and coming generation to add something to the architectural canon that he has established.
Perhaps above all this work, spanning more than three decades in a town of 2400 people, stands for Snozzi’s consistency, forbearance and no doubt some patience. Possibly, after another three decades, we will see if he was right.