It may be useful to begin these reflections on architecture and the architect’s profession, according to Giampiero Camponovo’s vision and experience – that span an over fifty year career and have made him one of the most internationally well-known and successful Ticinese architects – by quoting Frank Lloyd Wright: “The artist-architect will be a man inspired by his love of the nature of Nature, knowing that man is not made for architecture, architecture is made for man. He will see the practice of architecture never as a business but always religiously as basic to the welfare and culture of humanity as, at its best, it has ever been. And we must recognize the creative architect as a poet and interpreter of life.”
To the abstractness that often characterizes the architectural debate, Giampiero Camponovo prefers the concreteness of projects and works that are always executed by taking into account the people who are destined to inhabit the spaces. According to his vision of the profession, the lines, forms and materials utilized convey, far better than words, what each architect is able to express and the feelings he wishes to communicate; but also his idea of architecture, which is based on his conception of life and consequently the role that must be played by fundamental activities like working, inhabiting, and living the various moments of the day. After the decades of work and dozens of prestigious buildings he has constructed, he is still convinced that architecture can play a fundamental role by responding in the best possible way to the essential needs of humanity, both from a material and spiritual standpoint. “Those who know me are well aware that I have always refrained from facile pronouncements and preferred making, in other words designing and building, to expounding principles and theories that often prove to be mere exercises in style. Nonetheless, I think it’s only right to ask architects which ‘city’ they have in mind ,and the needs it should fulfil. We should go back to talking about the identity of a place and how to modify it. Just to give you one example, the beginning of the second half of the 19th century cities were redesigned to accommodate the railway and its stations, and thus the mobility element, the ‘intermodal’ encounters of people coming and going, became the pivotal element in city life. And way before that, in the Middle Ages, the creation of the square – with the church, representing religious power, on one side,and the city hall, representing civic power, on the other – provided the basis for the birth and development of the European civilization. What type of city do we want today? Architects must consider the problem of peripheral urbanization. Today, living on a street, as most people do, is no longer beneficial or enriching. It is simply living in the endless suburbs, outside the cultural contexts of the historic centres of the major cities, all endowed with schools and universities, an efficient transport system, and opportunities that enhance their citizenship, human relationships and identity values… What we have yet to define are the architectural and urbanistic models that we would like to have in the coming decades. The rampant development of the punctiform urban fabric that often occurs nowadays is definitely not the answer.
“In a certain sense, architecture can be compared to high fashion: there are the leading designers, the ones who are always in the spotlight and set the trends, but there is still the problem of everyday dressing – and living. It is no accident that the major projects mostly fall into the category of public buildings (theatres, museums, places of worship) that are intended to represent, or even symbolize, an entire city. But building activity is mostly linked to private commissions for custom-designed homes or structures for office use. And it is in the area of functionality that an architect’s ability to offer excellent solutions is tested; solutions that simultaneously take into account the limits imposed by the space, the environmental context, the volumes, the choice of materials and, of course, construction costs. Making architecture can be very difficult within this framework. We must never forget that the pivotal element in all this is the individual, the human being. Designing structures in which functionality, light and spaces have been sacrificed to formal architectural aspects is truly losing sight of the main purpose of building.”