Skip to content Skip to footer

Territory as Palimpsest: The legacy of André Corboz at Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio

November 4, 2022–February 5, 2023

The Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio of the Università della Svizzera italiana presents the exhibition Territory as Palimpsest: The legacy of André Corboz, promoted by the Academy of Architecture—USI, with the Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture—ISA, the support of the Academy of Architecture Library and of the Borromini Chair, from November 4, 2022 to February 5, 2023.

The goal of the exhibition is to explore the extensive body of work by André Corboz (1928–2012), a city and art historian from Geneva whose library and document collection are preserved at the USI Academy of Architecture Library in Mendrisio (ref. Fondo A.Corboz). André Corboz’s interests included Palladio and the US Territorial Grid, as well as planning during the French Enlightenment and postmodern Switzerland. The “territory as palimpsest” idea from Corboz is still relevant today. From the 1980s on, his writing became more conscious of and critical of the created nature of the area. For Corboz, notions like “landscape” and “urban situation” needed to be continually debated and problematicalized. He did this by addressing concerns that have persisted as vital, especially in the polycentric, urbanized Swiss landscape that has been experiencing a significant spatial evolution.

The first exhibition to ever give a general overview of André Corboz’s body of work is called Territory as Palimpsest: The Legacy of André Corboz (1928-2012). It offers a chance to place his complicated legacy in its historical context and to incorporate a variety of testimony from professionals, peers, and former collaborators. Furthermore, recent photography and visual art are used to contextualize his thought. The exhibit reveals linkages between various topics, invites viewers into Corboz’s intellectual laboratory, and offers details on his creative process and storytelling techniques. Additionally, his work as a cultural critic, author, and mentor to historians and architects will be covered.

The two primary subjects of the show are organized into thematic sectors: “Knowledge creation and history” and “How to read the territory.” This contrast highlights Corboz’s contributions to the debate on landscape and urban development, on the one hand, and also shows the development of a self-taught historian who traveled across various disciplinary domains, on the other.

A special website is launched in conjunction with the exhibition at the Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio. It showcases several aspects of Corboz’s work along a chronological axis (including biographical and bibliographical information). The website demonstrates how Corboz’s research ideas were created and used in his publications by drawing on textual and visual sources in the Fondo A. Corboz. The website also offers access to future study on Fondo A. Corboz based on his Mendrisio estate, as well as other documentation including audio testimonies gathered by the curators from former Corboz coworkers, pupils, and partners.

André Corboz (1928–2012)
A native Genevan, André Corboz (1928–2012) trained as a jurist at Université de Genève, subsequently worked in university administration, as well as a translator and journalist. He was also active as a poet before embarking upon his career as an academic in Quebec and Switzerland, teaching the history of architecture at the Université de Montréal (1968-1979) and the history of urbanism at the ETH Zurich (1980–1993). With the cultural anthropologist Gilbert Durand as his advisor, Corboz received a PhD in 1980 for his dissertation on the imagery of 18th century Venice in Canaletto’s paintings. Subsequently, his critical essays on contemporary urbanisation reached a broader public, especially in Switzerland and France among the planning disciplines.

The exhibition is curated by André Bideau (concept, main content) and Sonja Hildebrand (scientific responsibility).

Teatro dell’architettura
Via Alfonso Turconi 25
6850 Mendrisio