The Chiasso Cultural Centre embodies the vision of a thirty-year cultural policy that has believed and invested in the value of producing culture through international cross-border relations, along the historic axis linking Zurich to Milan, in which Chiasso is a significant hub. The little town is the gateway to the south of Switzerland and Italy’s portal northwards to the rest of Europe.
The Chiasso Cultural Centre comprises four different and coordinated institutions, key points in its urban fabric: the Cinema Teatro, the m.a.x. museo, the adjacent Spazio Officina and the Municipal Library.
The Cinema Teatro, a historic building dating from the mid-1930s, elegant and monumental, is a rare example of an “atmospheric cinema”, reopened after careful restoration in 2001. Today those who follow the rich season it presents can enjoy a very varied calendar open to various genres: from plays to symphonic concerts, from opera to comedies, from dance to film festivals as well as lectures and public debates.
The m.a.x. museo, with its mission to present graphics, design and visual communication, is a building that stands out by its large bright spaces, ideal for appreciating the works exhibited here. The structure expressed in the language of contemporary architecture is built of reinforced concrete and glass to offer a translucent surface, which at night glows like a lantern or lighthouse, a metaphor for beauty illuminating the world. Winner of the SIA Award in 2007, it mounts international exhibitions and as an ICOM museum collaborates with integrated projects in promoting exhibitions of historical graphic art, graphic design, corporate graphics, thinking design and photography.
The Spazio Officina is a reclaimed space was originally a garage, while today it is a space for meeting, making and understanding. Retrieved from a former artisanal facility, it lends itself to multiple uses: from exhibitions to conferences, from performances to concerts in an articulated program, together with the activities of cultural associations.
The Municipal Library is housed in a small villa dating from the early 20th century. Together with periodicals and 40,000 volumes of general interest on the open shelves and in a network with the Sistema Bibliotecario Ticinese, it has a specific section dedicated to graphic design and in particular a collection of 50,000 bookplates, one of the most important and prestigious in all Switzerland, including a large number of precious matrices.
The activities of the Cultural Centre create dense networks of connections: exhibitions, spectacles, concerts, encounters, reading courses, etc., linked with local associations in a network of synergies: the historic Circolo Cultura is significant in this connection, as are the Friends of the Cinema Teatro Association, the Friends of the M.a.x. Museo Association, the Biennial Image Association, Chiassoletteraria and the respective committees of Festate and the Jazz Festival, two events organized by the Municipality of Chiasso.
In 2019, the cultural programming of the Cinema Teatro, m.a.x. museo, Spazio Officina and the Library received the important accolade of the Swiss Foundation for the Doron Award, which extolled Chiasso for “its excellent cultural offering” promoted by this border town – so states the motivation for the award – as a “beacon of culture in the far south of Switzerland”.