BOTTA, Mario

BOTTA, Mario
(1943- )
   The Swiss architect Mario Botta studied art and architecture first in Milan and then in Venice. During his education at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice, he was an assistant to Le Corbusier and then to Louis Kahn. Combining the geometric aesthetic of Le Corbusier's version of the International style with his own urban interests, Botta's architecture is often called Neo-Rationalist, the style also favored by the Italian architects Carlo Scarpa and Aldo Rossi. Neo-Rationalist tendencies include a very precise geometric organization of space into crisply delineated straight lines that reveal a clear symmetry and overall order. Botta's Kyobo Tower in Seoul, South Korea (1999-2003), is a good example of this style. The monumental structure, built as a pair of matching brick towers connected in the middle with an upper-story glass sky-walk, has a thin strip of square windows running down the center of the front of each tower. The central entranceway steps up in height to create a tiered opening at ground level that echoes the square shape of the towers and windows. On the opposite side of the building, a brise-soleil filters light inside the building through a grid-like pattern of openings.
   In addition to the creation of this very ordered style, Botta is also interested in giving an urban focus to his monumental structures. His Church of Santo Volto, built in Turin in 2001-2006, was constructed in an abandoned industrial area of the city with the hope of revitalizing this neighborhood through new architectural construction. This structure is designed with a central brick tower cleaved very precisely into eight parts that are loosely joined together at their base, which is then surrounded by paired exedra, or chapels, that curve up and then outward from the central core of the building as if rotated on an axis from their traditional semicircular orientation. While exedra often help buttress the domed center of a church, in this case, these external side chapels split off from the fragmented central core and point outward, creating a strongly regular rhythm to both the exterior and the interior congregational space. A good example of Post-Vatican II architectural design, the circular format of the building seems at first to minimize the axial direction of the church interior, but the carefully aligned rows of pews in the congregational space provide a clear direction toward the altar.
   Mario Botta's strongly geometric structures provide a modern take on the traditional classical idiom so historically prevalent in Italy. While Botta's buildings are more rational than organic, he remains interested in the symbolic qualities of light and space in his structures and considers the relationship between his buildings and their surrounding urban context central to an understanding of their function and meaning.
   See also RATIONALISM.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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