Mario Botta, 80 years for the region


Institutional Communication Service

1 April 2023

Born in Mendrisio on 1 April 1943, Mario Botta turns 80 today. Internationally renowned, Botta is one of the leading representatives of the so-called 'Ticino school of architecture', of which his friend Aurelio 'Lio' Galfetti was also a member. Together in the 1990s, they carried out the innovative project of the USI Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, of which he was also director in 2002 and 2011.

After an apprenticeship as a construction draughtsman in Tita Carloni's studio, Mario Botta studied first in Milan and then in Venice, where he graduated from the IUAV in 1969 with a thesis supervised by Carlo Scarpa. In those years, he met Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, architects who greatly influenced his style.

Returning to Switzerland, he opened his own studio, initially concentrating on constructing single-family houses, including the villas in Riva San Vitale and Ligornetto built in the early 1970s. His work has subsequently encompassed all building types: schools, banks, administrative buildings, libraries, museums and religious buildings. His work has been honoured with major international awards, and numerous exhibitions have been dedicated to his research.

Supported by the then State Councillor Giuseppe Buffi and the mayor of Mendrisio Carlo Croci, Mario Botta, together with his friend Aurelio Galfetti (also the first director of the Academy), developed a model for the USI Academy of Architecture that differed significantly from the more traditional approaches followed by the Swiss polytechnics and schools of architecture. The proposed cultural and pedagogical approach is inspired by a solid humanistic imprint in a synthesis of technical knowledge, human and social sciences, operational skills and critical and historical thinking, also acting as a bridge between the Nordic and Mediterranean regions. In 2005, Mario Botta promoted a new initiative: Teatro dell'architettura, a USI facility designed to foster cultural debate in architecture and the visual arts. A professor emeritus of the Academy, Botta has served as President of the Scientific Council and was the director in the academic years 2002-03 and 2011-13.

Lorenzo Cantoni, Deputy Rector of Università della Svizzera italiana: "Mario Botta, who I came to know better when he was Director of the Academy and I was Dean of the Faculty of Communication Sciences, has always been for me a very clear example of Swissness: the ability to accomplish large projects - sometimes even grandiose ones - while at the same time remaining anchored to the territory, to one's roots, without arrogance or presumption. I have always admired his deep understanding of the various dimensions of living and dwelling: from the relationship with the earth and the natural environment, to that with other people in the city, to that with God in sacred buildings'.

Walter Angonese, Director of the Academy of Architecture: "There is not much to add about Mario Botta as an architect; he is world-famous, his works are scattered over the different continents and have influenced entire generations of architects since the 1970s. It can be added about Mario Botta as a lecturer that, in addition to being the initiator and founder of the Academy of Architecture, which in itself was an extraordinarily far-reaching and innovative event in terms of the way knowledge is transmitted in architecture, he has succeeded in motivating and enthusing entire generations of young architects anew. Furthermore, his vision of the school, with its strongly interdisciplinary and humanistic approach, is still the guarantor of the international success of the Academy of Architecture. Finally, on Mario Botta as a man, it must be said that successful people (see archistars) who have retained a human charge, modesty and empathy for those they meet are rare. Having made these three considerations, we can only take our hat off to Mario Botta and wish him energy and much strength for his future. All the best, then, Mario! And thank you for everything you have done for the Academy and USI'.


The 'To be an Architect' online course

The online course 'Mario Botta: to be an Architect' is freely accessible on the platform.

The course stems from a conversation with Mario Botta about what it means to be an architect. The main objective of this course is to help develop critical thinking about architecture. The course is divided into four weeks. Different activities are offered each week, such as watching videos, participating in discussions, reading articles and more. Additional readings and resources will be available for those who wish to explore the topics more deeply.