Aurelio Galfetti is a prominent Swiss architect based out of Lugano in Switzerland. He is known for his immense contribution to Ticino Architecture through his work and teachings. He is also the founder of the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio in Ticino.

Galfetti’s distinct, thought-provoking approach to design has inspired architects across the world over the last 60 years. He views the process of designing spaces as a process of designing pathways; the occupant’s journey through the building is the focal point of his design.

Here are 10 of his most inspiring projects:

1. Casa Rotalinti – Bellinzona, Switzerland,1961

This brutalist concrete building is perched on the Bellinzona Valley providing an exceptional view of the city. The design of this house aims to create a dynamic relationship between the occupant and landscape based on the diurnal cycle. The entrance takes the form of a bridge that leads you to the top of the house. The former part of the day is spent in the ‘day zone’, with a distant view of the landscape. As the day progresses, the occupant moves further down to the ‘night zone’, where the forest floor provides an intimate relationship with nature.

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2. Lido de Bellinzona – Bellinzona, Switzerland, 1967

This public swimming pool, set in the open landscape of the Bellinzona Valley, exemplifies the relationship between architecture and social infrastructure. A raised concrete walkway links the pedestrian to the landscape, the sky, and the hill of Castelgrande.

Moreover, it is futuristic in its approach. It accommodates the possibility of additional future programs, an idea that is only just gaining relevance in architecture.

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3. Scuola Materna – Lugano, Switzerland, 1970

Scuola Materna is a kindergarten school in Lugano, and one of Galfetti’s early works. Interestingly, it subtly expresses concepts that gain prominence in his later works. Organisation and improvement of the public sphere through his designs is one such concept.  

In this project, a path runs through the school, and the school is designed around it. The path connects two neighbourhoods, separated by a heavy flow of traffic, and thus serves the wider community. 

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4. Castelgrande – Bellinzona, Switzerland, 1981

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Castelgrande is one of the three castles in Bellinzona, the capital city of the state of Ticino. It was originally built in the 13th century and has since been enlarged and restored several times. Aurelio Galfetti was responsible for the latest restoration of the castle in 1981. 

This restoration project beautifully equates preservation with transformation, an idea that has grown very contentious over recent years. It seeks to prove that great architecture is the sum of all its histories and to imitate the past would be a disservice to the architecture of the present and the past. 

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5. Bianco e Nero – Bellinzona, Switzerland, 1986

The name of these twin residential blocks translates into black and white, instilling the idea of the juxtaposition of opposites. Galfetti himself lived in the top three floors of the black house. 

The design of the two blocks started along the same lines: both had central courtyards, and both were divided vertically. However, Case Nera required a more complex layout to cater to the small flats on the lower floors, and thus, eventually, the two blocks turned out quite differently. The importance of symmetry and purist forms is evident in both the blocks. 

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6. Municipal Tennis Courts – Bellinzona, Switzerland, 1986 

This concrete structure is an urban intervention designed to regulate the expansion of the periphery between the city and the river. The structure runs along the northern side of the court and forms an elaborate gateway. Internally, the structure provides an access route to the cloakroom and the tennis courts. The narrow route lets in light through the glazed roof and highlights Galfetti’s love for pathways. Small square windows break up the monolithic concrete façade and a row of trees runs along with it. 

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7. Cantini Ghidossi – Cadenazzo, Switzerland, 1994

Cantini Ghidossi is a contemporary wine cellar designed by Galfetti for a commercial wine company. With this project, Galfetti wanted to move away from the traditional concept of a dingy wine cellar. 

In doing so, he created a wine cellar partly above the ground and full of light. The roof of the building, draped in grapevines, provides beautiful views of the vineyard. Furthermore, the grapevine links the building with its surroundings and enhances the experience of the landscape.

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8. Cité des Arts – Chambéry, France, 2002

In 1998 a competition was launched for the design of Chembery’s new regional conservatory of music, dance, and dramatic arts: La Cite Des Arts. Aurelio Galfetti along with his former associate, Yann Keromnes, won the competition with their radical proposal. Their design split the building into two blocks over the ground, while the basement and sub basement levels remained intact. This characteristic move by Galfetti intended to connect the two gardens that lay on either side of the building. The negative space in this building is of utmost relevance to the scheme. 

The monumental concrete façade responds to the theme of the building, there is compositional rhythm in the geometry of the windows. 

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9. Casa a Paros – Paros, Greece, 2003

Located on the western side of the Greek island, this villa is one of the more recent projects of Aurelio Galfetti. The villa is set into the landscape to minimise its impact on the surroundings. The design process for this project revolved around the view of the sea, the sunset, and the skyline.Two long, white volumes are separated by open space and oriented to frame views of the sea from all parts of the villa.

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10. Net Centre – Padua; Italy, 2010

Located in Northern Italy, Padua is an ancient city known for its frescos and chapels. On the eastern side of this city, there is a growing urban district that aims to accommodate 10,000 inhabitants in the future. The Net Centre is a part of this new development and is intended to attract commercial interest. 

The building establishes a public square for the district and organises surrounding public spaces within a hierarchy. Its distinct form signifies its relevance within the scheme. The red solar shading elements further enhance its visual impact.

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Author

Shreya Sarin is a student of Architecture at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. She grew up in Delhi and completed her schooling from The Mother’s International School. Her academic work focuses on exploring the social, cultural, and physical impact of the built environment and she expresses her learning through her writings.

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