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The first edition of the Swiss Architectural Award

The international circuit for architecture prizes had an important new date this year: 13 November 2008. On this date the winner of the first BSI Swiss Architectural Award was announced. This new award has become one of the most prestigious in its field.

In December 2006 Banca del Gottardo set up a foundation for promoting knowledge, education and research in the field of architecture. The new architecture award is a specific expression of this interest. This involvement in the field of architecture has not stopped with the recent acquisition of Banca del Gottardo by BSI AG. Participation in this project is growing as is its importance, demonstrating once again BSI’s strong cultural ties. BSI is committed to helping raise awareness of the importance of science and the arts in daily life and in the sustainable development of our society.

The purpose of the BSI Swiss Architectural Award is to recognize, and bring to public and media attention, those architects who have made an important contribution to contemporary architecture and who have shown particular sensitivity to the landscape and environmental context of their designs. The only conditions are that candidates must not be older than 5o and must have produced at least three major works. The purpose of the two conditions is to showcase architects with experience but who have not yet gained widespread international fame.

The award includes generous prize money, with the winner due to receive CHF 100,000. Its prestige does not derive solely from the authoritative sponsorship of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture and the Academy of Architecture of the Università della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, but also from the specific way in which the candidates are selected. A group of internationally renowned architects and architectural critics act as advisors to make the selections.

In its first year, the award will benefit from the collaboration of architects and thinkers of the calibre of Laurent Beaudouin (France), Gonçalo Byrne (Portugal), Alberto Campo Baeza (Spain), Massimo Carmassi and Roberto Collovà (Italy), Kenneth Frampton (United States), Dan S. Hanganu (Canada), Yung Ho Chang (China), Kengo Kuma (Japan), Paulo Mendes da Rocha (Brazil), Boris Podrecca (Austria), Anant Raje (India) and Bruno Reichlin (Switzerland).

This international group gave the award jury the names of 30 candidates selected from professionals around the world. The award jury is chaired by Mario Botta and comprises Emilio Ambasz (United States), Valentin Bearth (Switzerland), Davide Croff (Italy) and Zhi Wenjun (China). The cosmopolitan nature of the advisor group and the award jury leads to a wide range of countries and culture being represented among the candidates and ensures that the award will have international visibility and relevance. The organization of the award is handled by the Modern Archive of the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, with the co-operation of BSI AG. The award is presented at an award ceremony at the Academy of Architecture.

For the occasion there was also an exhibition of the works submitted by the candidates at the Academy’s gallery.

The exhibition along with accompanying catalogue offered an insightful look at contemporary architecture, including the current trends, topics and emerging architects. This purpose of the initiative, as Mario Botta, the chairman of the award jury and vice president of the BSI Architectural Foundation, pointed out, is raising the profile of Mendrisio as a hub of excellence in the field of architecture. Mendrisio is the home of the Academy of Architecture of the Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano and the Archive of the Modern. The BSI Swiss Architectural Award is a symbol of the dialogue between cultural and financial institutions. Together, these institutions have put a high priority on analysing and redefining the complex links between growth, environmental awareness, responsible commitment and independent critical thinking in individuals and in the community.

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