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Casa Bianchi | Switzerland Architecture

Located at the foot of the San Giorgio Mountain, in the Mendrisio district of Switzerland, Casa Bianchi (1971-3) at Riva San Vitale stands apart from the beautiful natural landscape of this fishing town. Occupying 220 square metres of an 850 square metre site, the concrete block tower resembles a fortress in its relative isolation above Lake Lagona; cold but yet familiar in its modern form.
Built on a hillside, the main access to this family house is curiously through its top floor. This square vertically extruded building seems fortress-like in that it does not interact with its surroundings but rather observes them. However, a connection is established between hillside and home by an 18 metre long red metal bridge which provides the main access to the house; reinforcing its stronghold appearance. The bridge pierces the heart of the home through the fifth floor where a studio and a terrace are to be found. Private views are offered from both these spaces, together detaching the viewer from the world, and directly creating a rapport between the two. ‘The feeling, when crossing the bridge towards the house, is of entering into the landscape, and one’s eyes extend beyond to the church of Melano, at the other side of the lake.'[i]
Mario Botta (b. Switzerland 1943) designed this house shortly after graduating for his close friends Carlo and Leontina Bianchi. This was Botta’s second project for the couple; the first was the refurbishment of a flat in the village of Genestrerio, Switzerland. The brief for the residence at Riva San Vitale was similar in that a low budget home was required for a couple with two children. Botta himself strongly believed in a house being designed for its particular environment hence the distinctive appearance employed by the home.
According to Arnardóttir, Halldóra and Sánchez Merina, Javier, the land along the small road where the Bianchi site ends had been suffering from haphazard development during the last century. Botta opposed the tendancy to treat architecture as a commodity and so it was his intention from the very beginning to propose a house that would mark the limit of the careless expansion of the village as means of protecting the woods. Due in part to his protest, shortly after the completion of the house, new regulations declared no further construction could be approved in the area and so, for this reason the tower house now stands alone in its protected landscape.
The greatest influences on the work of Mario Botta came in the form the renowned brutalist architects Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, both of whom he briefly collaborated with in the sixties. Brutalism was a movement conceived from modernist architecture that thrived in the wake of World War II due to economically depressed states requiring low-cost construction and design. Characterisd by its stark, monolithic forms, brutalism comprised of unembellished exteriors and often block-like geometric forms.
Undoubtedly the Bianchi house is a true example of brutalist architecture but Botta himself is most commonly referred to as a neo-rationalist architect, belonging to the Ticense school. Neo Rationalism was an Italian movement of great repute in 1960s and 1970s. Seeking to redefine architectural form through the rational mergence of its components, neo Rationalism dismissed the sentiment that technology is the only way forward in architecture. Instead they looked to the past and were inspired by the architectural forms that were once abundant.
Botta looked to the Ticinese movement of which he was one of the foremost figures when designing the Riva San Vitale residence. The Ticinese school was comprised of a group of Swiss architects who promoted a greater appreciation for the significance of historical style, both socially and culturally. “Roccolo” houses, or bird hunting towers once typified the Ticino region and it is from these buildings that Botta took inspiration when designing the load bearing concrete brick tower house.
‘These buildings were raised over the trees as traces of human marks… Later, although many of them were destroyed, some were converted into weekend houses. It was precisely this combination of astonishing nature and basic construction which gave a special quality to the area.[ii]
Botta’s intentions in utilising this form were however very different ; The house stands at a respectful distance from the hillside, infringing upon the land only as much as is necessary. The vertical manner ensures the house does not lose importance when compared with the lofty mountains as its backdrop and by doing so answered his friends’ wishes of enjoying both the views of the lake above the trees and by having strong contact with the ground. Stevens Curl, James described Botta’s buildings to have;
‘clear, powerful geometries and display fine craftsmanship. For instance, the house at Riva San Vitale… is monumental, and has deep and powerful voids in the elevations'[iii]
The house is open plan and yet still private, organized around a mostly enclosed central open newel staircase and offers a selection of different views of the region from each living space. In turn, the stairs section off the house and so act as a divider, creating privacy. From the bridge, the floor to be found when descending the staircase is the private one of Carlo and Leontina themselves. Through being positioned thus, the couple are essentially the gatekeepers to their own home. So long as they are on their floor, no one can leave or enter through the front without their knowledge. Botta has created for them an intimate space comprising a bedroom, bathroom, dressing room and even a lake view balcony.
The second floor of the home was designed for family living. The children have their own twin bedroom and bathroom and there is also a study which serves as a balcony, overlooking the kitchen-dining room. The duplex nature of the house allows for interaction between the different floors, making it more social, but there are still private quarters to be found on each level giving a range in atmosphere not only across the different floors, but in each room also. A dining room can also be found on the first floor and the basement consists of a laundry room, storage spaces and a garage which are clearly intended for family use only.
Botta arranged the house so that the service areas occupy a similar vertical position with the bathrooms on the second and third floors and the laundry room in the basement. This way, plumbing the house would be more cost effective as certain pipes such as those for drainage would run through the building and it would also save space. The only part of the house to require a separate system would be the kitchen which occupies a different part of the first floor. It is in this part of the house that we assume Botta has considered his clients’ spacial requirements the priority.
The basement consists of a laundry room, storage spaces and a garage which are clearly intended for family use only. The social centre of the house can be found on the first floor where there is a living room in addition to the kitchen -dining room. Guests to the house would be required to walk across the bridge and down into the public region of the house. Standing at the bottom of a slope, with such depths and fortification within the property, the Bianchi house feels like an upside down castle.
The simple design and allows for as much light as possible to enter the home without compromising the privacy of the family.
Increasing commercialization by those seen as having betrayed architecture, a return to academic theories propounded by Quatremère de Quincy and others was proposed. A good example of realized works is Grassi’s student residences, Chieti (1976), which drew on proposals by Weinbrenner (1808).
Surname, First Name (or initials if you do not know the first name). Date. Title (in italics). Place of publication: Publisher.
Arnardóttir, Halldóra

Leadership Improvement Plan Example

Part A: Program Overview and Session Plan
The Leadership Improvement Plan is an excellent tool to utilize as a self-assessment plan for the manager of the future. An individual can assess or evaluate his or her strengths and deficiencies that would aid him or her in transforming themselves into the ideal manager in the future. In completing the self-assessments provided with the book, I ensured that I completed all of them so that I could receive a well-rounded analysis of my personality and my leadership potential. I took the liberty of approaching the Leadership Improvement Plan as I would a SWOT analysis of my organization. I ensured that I employed Porter’s SWOT analysis to every aspect of my assessment. Typically, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A key to an effective SWOT analysis involves being realistic about your company’s strengths and weaknesses, analysis should distinguish between where your organization is today, and where it could be in the future. I avoided grey areas, always analyzed my current status in relation to my ideal vision of a manager i.e. better than or worse than the ideal. I attempted to keep the analysis short and simple and ensured that the Leadership Improvement Process just like the SWOT process should avoid complexity and over analysis and that it is subjective.
Part B: Analysis
The assessment evaluates team development behaviors in five areas such as diagnosing team development, managing the forming stage, managing the storming stage and managing the performing stage (Stoner, 2007, 18). The score ranges from 18 to 108 and it can help measure my aptitude at building and leading a team in comparison to a group of 500 students.
My score on this assessment was 86, placing me in the second quartile (72-94). A score of 95 or above would have placed me in the top quartile. A score of 60 or below is the bottom quartile indicating a deficiency in effectively managing and leading a team. I believe that I am well versed in the different stages of development that teams undergo in their life cycle from initiation to disbanding. Also, I am knowledgeable about guiding the team during the trying stages of forming and storming. My experience as a team leader in a Six Sigma project and Six Sigma Black Belt certification from the American Society for Quality is considerable.
One of my strengths is that I give immense feedback to team members regarding their performance and help them hone their skills and facilitate unfettered exchange of ideas. One of my weaknesses is that I often cannot exude a certain charisma or passion required to communicate an exciting and passionate vision of what the team can achieve. Some action I can take is to practice yoga and meditation on a regularly in order to focus my mind on the positive and gain a sense of optimism for the future. I can also review how successful managers exude their charisma and passion to obtain buy-in from their employees and team members. One of the books I can read is ‘Creating Optimism: A Proven, Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression’ written by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry. By doing exercises in the book, I will gain a new positive outlook of life. I wish to learn and experience new and more positive ways of looking at my past, at my relationships, at my work, at my family.
Part C: Leadership Style
Talking about my personal self, I believe that two qualities in particular characterize my leadership style: the ability to establish a clear vision and the ability to set an example. Establishing a clear vision up front allows me to convey a sense of purpose and responsibility to every member of my team. A clear vision also provides a roadmap for setting goals and developing action plans. As each action plan is implemented and each goal is accomplished, project milestones are reached and overall progress is observed. The impression of progress — as well as evidence thereof — is key to maintaining a motivated and productive team. (Tichy, 2002, 25)
Once a clear vision has been established, I seek to set an example for my colleagues. Specifically, I work to gain the respect of my team through action. People are more apt to mobilize after they have observed another person in action. When team members realize that I am willing to put in the effort, they feel compelled to act accordingly. In addition, they become more responsive to my leadership and more confident in their own work. (Schein, 1995, 187; (Topping, 2002, 26)
In order to become a more effective leader, I need to improve my skills in both management and organization. The proper management of resources can make or break a project operating under a tight financial or personnel budget, while efficient organization promotes resource management. A leader who understands organizational philosophy will be a successful resource manager. (Arnold, 2001, 21) Since my primary role has traditionally been a resource rather than a manager of resources, I have had few opportunities to practice these skills. These skills will become a necessity as I step into positions of increasing managerial responsibility and organizational leadership.
Part D: Group Dynamics
Group dynamics is an important theory that has enabled me to understand my own approach to interacting with others. People work in-groups quite frequently and in many different areas of their life e.g. at work, school/college, sport, hobbies. A group can be defined as ‘two or more people acting interdependently in a unified manner towards the achievement of goals’ (Bateman, 2004, 98). There are different types of groups; they can be primary or secondary. A primary group ‘consists of members who come into direct contact’ (Bateman, 2004, 98), e.g. project teams, small department teams, sports teams. A secondary group ‘are larger, less personal, and lack immediate direct contact between members’ (Robbins, 2002, 28) e.g. long assembly line. This is where there is little interpersonal communication. Groups can also be formal or informal. Formal groups tend be created by management deliberately. Management will pick the members and the methods of doing work. However informal groups are usually established by people who have things in common and they will decide members, methods etc. (Covey, 2004, 54)
There are different stages of group development. If people are put together then it doesn’t automatically mean that they will form into a successful group. (Covey, 2004, 54) developed a theory that looked at the stages of the development of groups. The first stage is forming, this is the stage where ‘members choose, or are told, to join a team’ (Covey, 2004, 54; Nicolaides, 2002, 45)
The people in the group will come together and start communicating with the other members to find out more about them. Information exchanged between members tends to be superficial because people are trying to establish their position within the group. The second stage is known as storming. It is at this stage that people’s views and opinions start to show and this is when conflicts among the members can arise if these differ. The third stage is Norming. (Daft, 2002, 08) This is when the differences are excepted and people start to try to work together. People’s roles will be established and so will shared norms and values. The next stage is performing; this is when the group has bonded and interacts with each other to get the set task done. The last is adjourning; this is when the group has completed their objectives or if they agree that the group is not going to work. (Daft, 2002, 08; Nankervis, 2002, 26)
In my experience with groups I have found that at times group work can be very difficult. While at college we had to get into groups of 5 to do an assignment. We were all friends so I had no doubt that we wouldn’t get on. However it was a lot different to what I had expected. We started at the storming stage because we already knew each other; this is where the disagreements began. It was at this stage that I realised that we had a conflict of opinions on how the assignment should be carried out and by whom. Finally after a lot of disagreements we got to the Norming stage through interaction and communication. It was decided that a voting system needed to be established. This worked because it allowed all of us to view our opinions and then take votes on it. This interaction and communication allowed us to complete the assignment.
There are many theories on leadership style and behaviour. There are 4 main styles of leadership. One is authoritarian, this type of leader is the ‘absolute authority on all matters, and little attention is paid to the views of others’ (DuBrin, 1989, 21; Myers, 2002, 14)). Participative or democratic style is when a democratic leader will consult those involved or who will be affected by the decision and ‘delegates authority to others, encourages participation, and relies on expert and referent power to influence subordinates’ (Kets de Vries, 2001, 47). The third style of leadership is laissez-faire. This leader does not really direct people and lets them get on with the task based on some guidelines given. The last is a charismatic leader who ‘influences and motivates others because they have outstanding personal characteristics’ In my experience I have found that this kind of leadership doesn’t always work. I have worked (Kotler, 2003, 15).
Part E: Moving Forward/ Next Steps
My leadership improvement plan would comprise of varying facets of professional and personal adjustments that would enable me to prepare and align with my vision of an ideal manager. In summarizing my results, I discover that I need a well-rounded approach to tackle some of the deficiencies I have. I have to attend emotional intelligence workshops, take courses in ethics, read books, and consider enrollment in management training programs. Additionally, I need to hone my skills in the areas I have competence or mastery in order to avoid having them dull over time. I believe that evaluating my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats continually in the future as I have done so with the Leadership Improvement Plan here will greatly aid me in my aspirations of realizing and sustaining a successful and effective managerial position.
Arnold, K.A., Barling, J. and Kelloway, K.E. (2001), Leadership and organizational development journal, vol.22, Pp 21-65
Bateman, T.S. and Snell, S.A. (2004), Management: The new competitive landscape,6th ed, McGraw Hill, New York, Pp 16-98
Covey, S.R. (2004), The seven habits of highly effective people, 3rd ed, Simon