This exhibition at the Ringturm Exhibition Centre in Vienna explores 22 of Botta’s buildings, some of which were created several decades apart, from the small chapel in Ticino, Switzerland from 1966 to the Chapel of St. Francis in Sorgeno-Lugano, which was only completed a short time ago. What all of Botta’s religious buildings have in common is the theme of the sacred, which manifests itself emphatically.
For Botta, this theme shapes the identity of all of his designs, irrespective of their religious affiliation. In Botta’s eyes, architecture gives rise to the mysticism of a space – the church is a place in which the Last Supper can be experienced and not just dramaturgically represented.
Mario Botta was one of the key figures behind “new Ticino architecture” in the 1970s. It was in the canton of Ticino – Switzerland’s Mediterranean soul – that Botta made his first foray into ecclesiastical architecture, with the construction of a small chapel at the Bigorio Capuchin monastery.
Although still a student in Venice at this point, Botta’s preference for materials such as stone, brick and concrete – as well as clear forms with interrupted lines – was already in evidence, and has endured to this day.
Born in 1943 in Mendrisio in the Swiss canton of Ticino, Botta has designed more than 100 structures around the world over the past five decades – including a family home in Switzerland, libraries in Dortmund and Beijing, banks in Athens and a museum in San Francisco.
In a life devoted to architecture, religious buildings have been his passion: Botta’s works include Catholic chapels and churches in Austria (in Tyrol’s Zillertal valley), France, Italy and Switzerland, as well as a synagogue in Israel. Three more religious buildings – a mosque on China’s border with Mongolia, a Catholic church near Seoul in South Korea, and an Orthodox community centre in Ukraine – are currently under construction.
Traces of some of the great masters of modernism – from Le Corbusier and Kahn to Michelucci and Scarpa – can all be found in Mario Botta’s style. The Swiss places particular emphasis on the notion of “spazio del sacro” or “sacred space”. Wiener Städtische Versicherungverein’s latest exhibition centres on the acclaimed international architect’s designs for religious spaces, and presents a striking cross-section of the Swiss “church builder’s” oeuvre.
The show also highlights Botta’s professional development over the decades, as he seized the opportunity to work in a variety of different landscapes. Taking Botta’s religious buildings as an example, it appears as if planning and constructing sacred spaces inspires a kind of radical exploration of the sense and meaning of architectural endeavour.