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Mario Botta (Swiss, born 1943)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

Swiss architect. He graduated in 1969 from the Istituto Universario di Architettura in Venice where his teachers included Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella. As early as 1965 he collaborated with Le Corbusier on the new Venice hospital project (unbuilt), and he gained practical experience in Le Corbusier’s Paris office. In 1969 Botta met Louis I. Kahn and with him designed the exhibition on the Palazzo dei Congressi project in Venice. These experiences began his professional activity and left lasting impressions: he was able to assimilate the cultural influences in his first independent projects through a style permeated with confident quotations, yet not devoid of original touches.

The Casa Bianchi (1971–3), in Riva San Vitale, Ticino, is one of Botta’s most eloquent works because of the complex relationship it established with its surroundings. The house, which is a tower, takes confident possession of the sloping terrain; the entrance is on the upper level, across a metal bridge, reversing the usual functional arrangement. It forms part of a series of one-family houses: in each, the primary volume is divided by an opening at the top corresponding to the axis of the stairs, making light the key instrument in the spatial organization of the houses’ three habitable levels. This scheme governed the design of houses in Ticino at Pregassona (1979–80), Massagno (1980–81), Viganello (1980–81) and especially the Casa Rotonda (1981–2) at Stabio, Ticino, a drum built of concrete blocks, with openings cut its entire height to admit light to the interior. This series constituted a form of experimentation with his own responses to the landscape, which developed the texture and colour of the materials, and which was most evident in the concave lower façade of the house (1983–4) at Morbio Superiore, Ticino.

The same approach was applied to larger buildings. The school (1972–7) at Morbio Inferiore, Ticino, represents a recapitulation of urban projects previously examined by the Ticinese school—Luigi Snozzi (b 1932), Tita Carloni (b 1931), Aurelio Galfetti (b 1936), Flora Ruchat (b 1937)—to which he belonged. The complex is differentiated from the indiscriminate urbanization surrounding it and is composed of a standard classroom repeated along a central arcade. Botta also used a variety of means to integrate visually a new building into a city. The composition of the Banque de l’Etat (1977–82) in Fribourg was resolved through the intersection of a central, cylindrical body by lateral wings aligned with surrounding buildings, picking up the rhythm of their traditional fenestration pattern. The Ransila I Building (1981–5), Lugano, however, reinforces the site’s urban character by means of a deep hollowed volume and sophisticated treatment of the brick on its lateral façades. At the André Malraux Maison de la Culture (begun 1982) at Chambéry, Savoie, the articulation of the restored 19th-century barracks with Botta’s new theatre block enabled the rotation of the barracks’ original axis so as to re-align it with the road, creating an urban space that acknowledges the historic fabric of the city. In the Banca del Gottardo (1982–8), Lugano, materials are used to suggest the hierarchical organization of the façade: strips of pink stone and granite alternate on the four main blocks, which in turn alternate with the brise-soleil of the intervening courtyards. The cathedral of St Corbin at Evry near Paris, begun in 1991, is a brick cylindrical structure with a sloping transverse roof. Botta’s design for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1992–4), his first museum and the second-largest museum of modern art in the USA, incorporates a series of stepped spaces punctuated by a truncated section of a cylindrical skylight.

Mercedes Daguerre
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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