André Corboz (1928-2012) reached audiences over an extended historic period and in various disciplines. His subjects ranged from Palladio to the Territorial Grid of the United States, from planning during the French Enlightenment to postmodern Switzerland, transcending the scope of a historian. His metaphor of “territory as palimpsest” remains pertinent to understand the constructed nature of our environment as well as the meanings that we project into it. Problems addressed by Corboz during the 1980s and 1990s have since gained an even greater urgency – considering the polycentric, urbanised Swiss landscape and its shifting identity amidst a dramatic spatial evolution.
How to present a complex oeuvre essentially based on texts? This is the first exhibition ever to provide an overview of Corboz’s body of work as a cultural critic, writer and educator of historians and architects. His estate – personal library, photography collection, diaries and scientific papers – kept at the Academy of architecture Library since 2014 as Fondo Corboz, provides unique source material: Corboz indulged in meticulous forms of self-observation and notation, keeping records of most of his research projects, as well as his extensive travels. Although theorising the paradigm of urbanity in the information age, however, he resolutely opposed digital media and remained faithful to the analogue. This pattern allows us to take visitors into an intellectual laboratory and a trajectory that spans the second half of the 20th century.
Exhibition promoted by Academy of Architecture with the Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture ISA, the Academy of Architecture Library and the Cattedra Borromini.
Territory as Palimpsest: The legacy of André Corboz is structured along two main themes: “How to read the territory” and “Knowledge production and historiography” – emphasising contributions to the discourse of landscape and urban development on one hand, while illustrating, on the other hand, the evolution of this self-trained historian who travelled through multiple disciplinary fields. True to Corboz’s nomadic existence between countries, cultures and disciplines the presented documents utilise various languages: We aim to situate and contextualise an itinerant form of knowledge production that in itself constituted a performance.
Furthermore, this multi-faceted legacy is interrogated in numerous testimonials by practitioners, contemporaries and former collaborators of Corboz. Together with the exhibition a website is now launched. It presents additional layers of his work from the archive along chronological and thematic axes, Drawing from textual and visual sources, the website tracks how Corboz designed and implemented his research projects.