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LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura
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The architectural project

Territorial continuity and urban development of public spaces

LAC – Lugano Arte e Cultura [Lugano Art and Culture] – is a new arts venue designed to host and enhance the wide range of art forms on offer in the city. In addition to playing a key role in the national and international cultural landscape, the Centre aspires to become the pulsating heart of Lugano; a venue which is always open to the City’s residents and visitors.

Born as a location for the sharing and cross-fertilisation of various artistic disciplines, the LAC centre immediately established its open approach to encounters regarding art, artists and the collective thanks to its architectural structure.

The new arts venue plays a key role in the city’s social and economic transformation. Lugano and the LAC – which was not specifically created as an architectural attraction, but as a new district for arts and culture – are engaged in constant dialogue. On this subject, Gianola states that: “It is the city's very strength which enables and empowers LAC. The arts venue project is not predicated on the construction of a prestigious building, but is intended to ensure territorial continuity and a new form of urban development." 

In 2001, 130 architectural firms took part in the competition to create the new Arts Centre; the competition was won by the architect Ivano Gianola, Ivano Gianola, an exponent of the renowned Ticino School of architecture, who He stood out because of the strong ties between his architectural projects and the local environment. In this specific creation also, the main advantage is the absence of any physical separation between the city’s streets and the building. Like the street and the piazza, the ground floor of LAC was also designed to be accessible to the public. The shape of the section housing the museum, raised up on columns, does not enclose the area in a clearly defined perimeter, but opens it up towards the lake. From the piazza, visitors can choose the direction they wish to take; they can enter LAC to access the museum or the theatre; they can cross the internal courtyards; enter the adjoining park or walk into the city centre. 

On entering the building, visitors find themselves in a spacious 650 m² hall designed as a huge window designed to render the boundary between indoor and outdoor almost imperceptible. One side overlooks the new Piazza Bernardino Luini and the lake, whilst the other looks out over the outdoor amphitheatre and the park created adjacent to the facility. The hall - which houses the ticket office, the bookshop and a bar – is open to visitors, just like any town street, enabling them to cross from one side of the city to the other. This was a deliberate choice, designed to eliminate the sense of separation between the physical spaces and is also an invitation to live LAC just like any other everyday experience. “It is important to allow people to cross through the building inside if, as if it were an ordinary town street. In the future I’d love to see somebody living in via Motta cross the park to go to work” remarks the architect Gianola.

With a volume of 180,000 m², LAC has been constructed on the site of the old Palace hotel and was designed in accordance with the architectural principles of Realism as practised in Ticino. In addition to the large hall, it embraces an innovative theatre and concert auditorium, a sizeable museum and exhibition space and various modular, multipurpose rooms for events, including arts events. The entire surface area is approximately 29,000 m2 not including the large piazza in front of the structure and the park behind. The entire structure of the arts centre also includes a number of pre-existing or restored architectural gems, such as the important Santa Maria degli Angioli church containing sixteenth century frescoes by Bernardino Luini, the Franciscan convent and the adjoining cloisters. The structure was designed to stand at the centre of a cross: at its outer edges, there are the city’s mediaeval core, the new development which extends towards Paradiso, the park and the lake. The cultural centre thus becomes a sort of filter, a pulsating heart, a muscle which creates life and encompasses a diverse array of urban structures.

The combination of new and old is one of LAC’s salient characteristics. The restrictions placed on the redevelopment project, requiring preservation of the original facades of the former grand Hotel Palace and the remains of the convent and the cloisters, were of crucial importance. This district of the city is coming back to life, in part due to the new public buildings, but also on account of the older areas which have reacquired their original functions. The rooms on the ground floor of the cloisters for example, have become new areas which are once more open to residents, whilst the upper floors will be occupied by the LAC offices.

Walking through the foyer, visitors can access the theatre and concert auditorium (800 m²) with seating for 1000 people. The room is a concentration of modular and cutting-edge engineering solutions, making it possible to organise virtually any type of show, including symphony and jazz concerts, opera and operetta, dance and theatre. This versatility is chiefly due to the modular acoustic shell and a mobile system for the orchestra pit, which may be raised up to the level of the stage, extending it up to the first row of seats. Thanks to cooperation between the architect Ivano Gianola and Müller BBM from Munich, a leading company in the acoustic engineering sector, LAC’s theatre and concert auditorium provides a perfect blend of architectural aesthetics and acoustic quality.

On the opposite side of the foyer, it is possible to visit the museum which was created by combining the CantonArt Museum and Lugano’s Art Museum. Spread over three exhibition floors with a total surface area of 2500 m², it houses the prestigious Lugano and Canton Ticino art collections. One floor houses the permanent exhibition whilst the other will host temporary exhibitions. The museum architecture was designed to house   works of art and not to compete with them. The spaces are simple, white, flexible and flooded with light in order to allow visitors to fully appreciate the works. 

The architectural structure is rounded off by the Teatrostudio - dedicated to smaller performances and as a rehearsal room for plays and concert performances. It will also be possible to organise sets – various multiuse rooms which meet multi-functionality criteria. Just a few metres away from the structure there is Spazio – 1 which houses the Giancarlo and Danna Olgiati contemporary art collection.