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In 1968, Luigi Snozzi was commissioned to design a project for an elementary school in the Swiss Ticino region within the context of a master plan designed by a Professor at ETH Zürich. He refused the commission because the site was outside the city limits and near an existing highway. Snozzi’s idea was to place the elementary school in the nunnery located in the center of the village. He put together two existing plots and surrounded them with a peripheral street. He displaced the cemetery, designed a gymnasium, allocated a lumber cauldron for the complex, and suggested that, instead of a multipurpose chamber, a classic concert hall should be erected (this concert hall has not yet been built). This refusal and reframing of the commission marked his relation with the village for the years to come. In the city he also built the Mayor’s house and a bank, about ten family residences, and two housing buildings and also put together a restoration project for football player facilities. More important than the collection of projects, however, is that he went on to propose a new set of bylaws for the city with only seven clauses (instead of two hundred and forty, as he says). The new, seven-clause building regulation for Monte Carasso goes something like this:
1. Any intervention must come to terms with the structure of the place.
2. Three local structure experts must be nominated for a commission that will examine all projects.
Considering how difficult it is to find experts, he proposed the commission should be made up of only one expert—him.
3. There is no rule defining the architectural language.
4. Elimination of all distances from roads and between neighbors.
5. Maximum height for any building is three stories. Extra height can be granted for roof terraces.
6. The Floor Area Ratio was raised from 0.3 to 1.
7. Walls 2.5 meters high must be built along the road, reduced by the local council to 1.2 meters (for those built before 1940).
What we can read in this set of rules is basically a will and constant search for synthesis. This not only in terms of rules applied to others but mainly to himself, throughout all his life and in all his buildings. One can discern not only confidence in himself, but a particular confidence in common sense and ultimately in people. To trust in this, we may need to adjust our scale of operations as he did. Not everything, not everywhere. It is no coincidence that the first of the set of rules he proposes is in some way just to be reasonable in your intervention. Luigi Snozzi is an example of radical thinking in approaching architectural problems, but he is mainly an example of integrity. He walks his talk, and his own life is the vivid proof of his actions.

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  • Title: MONTE CARASSO MASTERPLAN
  • Creator: STUDIO SNOZZI
  • Rights: Photo by Andrea Avezzù; Courtesy: la Biennale di Venezia, With the support of Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

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