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Owner Monte Verità Foundation
Restoration Drytech Ticino, Bedano
MONTE VERITÀ, ASCONA / In 1516 Thomas More published Utopia: a novel set on an imaginery island, in which More depicts his vision of an ideal society.
The title is a neologism invented by the English philosopher, Latinizing the Greek word tópos (place) with the prefix εu (good) or óu (not). The meaning is the product of the two meanings, i.e. the best place anywhere. The island that doesn’t exist.
Yet there is an altogether real place which, throughout the 20th century, has attracted many different utopias. It is Monte Verità: the hill above Ascona, which in 1900 became the destination of choice for a group of idealists looking for an alternative way to the capitalist and industrialized society, and which here defined a new humanism starting from the recovery of a direct relationship with nature. They worked in the gardens and fields, built spartan wooden huts permeable to light and air and exposed their naked bodies to regenerating baths of sun, air and water.
The social organization was based on a cooperative system, aimed at achieving the emancipation of women, at exploring new ways of cultivating the mind and spirit, and at recovering the unity of body and soul.
The social experiment of the community resonated throughout Europe and even overseas, anticipating contemporary values such as equal rights for men and women, ecological and environmental consciousness, or issues such as vegetarianism and animalism.
The ideas were so revolutionary, and the impact so significant, that there was a strange evolution: the spirit of inquiry transcended the community and survived it, ending up identifying with the place. Monte Verità itself became a catalyst for utopias and idealists, gradually attracting theosophists, reformers, anarchists, communists, social democrats and psychoanalysts. And then literary personalities, writers, poets, artists and, finally, emigrants of both world wars. Idealists recognised it as a sort of genius loci and saw the Mount as the natural habitat for their own quest.
Each utopia left a mark and these architectural, artistic and cultural stratifications further amplify the feeling of being in a special place if one aspires to shift, even slightly, the rotation of the world.
Monte Verità has a magnetism that is still perceptible when walking in the large park between the air-light huts and the Bauhaus and Art Nouveau architectures, or visiting the historic exhibition of Harald Szeemann, open again from May 20 in the charming Casa Anatta: the striking museum of utopia, which has recently reopened its doors after the renovation to which Drytech also contributed, restoring the basement with injections of waterproofing resin made from inside the structure, without demolition or excavation.
Going up to Monte Verità is the most exciting way to discover that the island that does not exist actually exists.


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