Ever since I moved to Ticino I have been saddened by the apparent total lack of respect that planning authorities and property speculators (who by some wild coincidence may well be closely related) have for the history and beauty of the landscape. It is incredibly striking to drive from Lugano along the lakeside road towards Porlezza and then Menaggio on Lake Como. As soon as you cross the border, the banal, ugly mass of concrete blockhouses gives way to a more gentle mix of older and newer building styles which blend in to the landscape and give true atmosphere, unlike the frankly ugly and increasingly soulless Lugano. Of course it’s not all black & white: Italian chaos and disrespect for the environment is alive and well even there. But 100 or even 50 years ago Lugano could rival comparable northern Italian cities for the elegance of it’s civic architecture. Now, well it would make a British 1960’s town planner blush.
But the ongoing march of the bulldozer, crane and cement mixer has plumbed new depths in Ticino. Property speculators now plan to cram a set of square concrete boxes (than you so much, Mario Botta…) into the small park in front of the second house Herman Hesse lived in in Montagnola, Casa Rossa. This takes not only selfishness, greed and tastelessness to new heights, but it adds in a healthy dose of blind stupidity as well. Ticino lives increasingly from tourism, despite the fact that it does very little to deserve it, and somehow expects the Tourist Euro / Dollar / Yen as a Divine Right. But now to deface with legalised vandalism an important part of one of the richest tourist attractions on the territory to build a few extra lake view boxes (priced in Roubles, no doubt) is beyond shameful.
Even if Hermann Hesse’s legacy was not popular (which is not the case - visitor numbers to the museum are increasing), the lack of respect for a valuable cultural legacy of worldwide interest puts the responsible authorities somewhere near the Taliban in this respect.
There is actually a photographic angle to this, because the issue is being championed by veteran Swiss photographer Giosanna Crivelli, and she has created a dedicated website with further information and a multi-language petition which anybody can sign.
If you also feel that this is a step too far, please take a few minutes to add your voice.
Oh well, that’s blown my chances of Swiss citizenship. Again