Flexible Housing Units by Mario Conte

Flexible Housing Units by Mario Conte

Flexible Housing Units by Mario Conte, located in Canobbio, Switzerland | The Hardt


Flexible Housing Units by Mario Conte, located in Canobbio, Switzerland. The project is generated by the context so close to the urban area of the city and provides a set of houses of superior standing, with a search for independence such as to propose units that are neither apartments, nor villas, but urban housing units, with accesses and independent outdoor spaces. Space, light, utility, relationship with the landscape and emotions are constants in the search for this building. 
The concept of the form of independent duplex enclosures that “stacked” together form an elegant and modern complex of controlled size. A high-end of 3 units of 3.5 rooms called “lake belt” with duplex apartments o 1,400 ft² ( 130 m²) A low-end 3 unit of 4.5 rooms called “garden area” with duplex apartments of 1,700 ft² ( 160 m²) The lake and garden areas have large windows and openings to the outside to make strong the relationship and the continuity with the landscape free from other buildings in contact with the green, the city, the lake. The middle floor, more closed and introverted is where the sleeping areas of both types meet (lake and garden bands) containing the rooms with services that contrarily to the day plans are more ‘discrete and introverted to have the tranquility that requires a area of this function.




Photos by Paolo Mazzo



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Church of San Giovanni Battista (1996) by Mario Botta

Church of San Giovanni Battista (1996) by Mario Botta


Mario Botta -The Space Beyond (Official Trailer – English) from Michael Glowacki on Vimeo.



Located in Mogno, Switzerland, Church of San Giovanni Battista (1996) by Mario Botta | The Hardt


The Church of San Giovanni Battista (Italian: Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista; German: Kirche San Giovanni Battista) is located in the alpine village of Mogno in the Swiss canton of Ticino. Mario Botta describes his mountainous architecture as influenced by “two points of interaction: the exterior with the landscape; the interior with the domestic.” In this study I examine how his design of two churches in Ticino, Switzerland addresses the dissonance between the stoic exterior of the mountains and the touch of human scale inviting worshipers to solitude. I analyze Botta’s mountainous churches of the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, built in Monte Tamaro, 1990-1996 and the San Giovanni Battista Church, built in Mogno, 1992-1998  

The two churches exemplify the challenges of designing a house of worship for small parishes within breathtaking nature. The first challenge addresses the design solutions in the context of remote areas in the Alps. These locations evoke in themselves a spiritual experience, and the issue is how architecture contributes to the desired spiritual solitude. Second, both buildings were built from local stones linking them to their specific sites, expressing monumental qualities, and adhering to the spiritual qualities of the space: “Although the landscape is immense, the insertion of even a small object changes the scenery.” This solution brings with it the idea of architecture transforming the landscape, which in turn stimulates the spirit of man. Third, in each of the churches light is treated to enhance spiritual transcendence and to illustrate divine presence. Furthermore, these churches may be perceived as part of the continuous attempt of humans to build pillars from stone as a sacred link between earth and heaven, and as an expression of possessing the mountain. 





Mountains are perceived as God’s dwelling and as a spot where the sacred manifests itself: “Now Mount Sinai was altogether in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (Exodus 19:18). Moreover, the echoes of the surrounding mountains are perceived as the voices of spirits.4 These spiritual experiences inspire humans to erect their own ‘sacred mountains’. See for example the story of Jacob who set the stone up as a pillar and poured oil on its top to establish a sacred vertical axis (Genesis 28:18). These sacred structures often imitate in stone the form of mountains or are built on top of a mountain.  

Botta’s two churches are good examples for both of these approaches. The chapel in Monte Tamaro stands on top of the mountain and “’detaches’ itself from the mountain to form a new horizon, the starting point of an ideal viaduct.”5 The external horizontal axis of this chapel creates a sacred path offering a new glimpse of the mountains as a continuation of the worshiper-pilgrim’s infinite path for meditation and thought. Botta claims that building the chapel was a sign of a man in the landscape encompassing “the tension between man and nature.” The Church in Mogno was constructed as a vertical “pillar” becoming the focal point of the valley’s skyline, where two points in the valley are bridged to transform the landscape. This vertical axis expresses the spiritual axis mundi of the village, standing “as a bulwark for the village, in defiance of the mountain.” Indeed the church in Mogno was built in a place of an avalanche that caused death and loss. The location was requested by the residents of the village who said, “We want to construct a new church because there used to be a church here.” Thus the driving force underlying the project was maintaining the collective memory of the community. Botta’s design “brings with it not only the geography but also the memory, the culture, the history of that very place.” 





The use of locally quarried stones in the design of these churches expresses the specificity of the place as well as permanence and human longings for eternity. Stone is part of the layers and colors of the earth as shaped by winds and water and reveals the sacredness of the earth. In a poetic way stone is a gift of nature that illustrates the soul of the earth. Botta believes that putting a stone on earth is a sacred act of architecture and signifies the possession of the earth. This act “strives to evoke the deepest values suggested by the language of stones. Their symbolic and metaphoric meaning becomes an extraordinarily current message that involves the architect beyond the religious sphere.”

The chapel in Monte Tamaro is constructed from reinforced concrete faced with rusticated porphyry. This stone façade makes the chapel blend into the rocks of the mountain and transforms the mountain’s peak into a new height. Botta introduces us to a temporal visual experience with an outdoor procession on top of the chapel/the mountain. The stone of this chapel is facing the exterior only; the interior concrete is painted black and white to enhance the interplay of light and shadow and to create an intimate place to showcase contemporary liturgical art. Plastering the walls for displaying art resembles the fresco chapels in history.

In contrast, the church in Mogno is built of alternating courses of gray Riveo granite and white Peccia marble outside and inside, reminding us of some of the Tuscan Romanesque cathedrals. As such it continues a long history of church construction and creates a statement of permanence. The stone in this church demonstrates Botta’s mass architecture and enhances the transformation of the geometry of the building from a square plan to an ellipse and then to a circle. 


While stone construction is a sacred act of architecture representing earth and permanence, the light becomes the soul of this act by introducing heaven. Eliade stated: “Even before any religious values have been set upon the sky it reveals its transcendence. The sky symbolizes transcendence, power, and changelessness simply by being there. It exists because it is high, infinite, immovable, powerful.”15 Light enhances the meaning of materials, forms, lines, and colors and beautifies the building. The visual experience in sacred settings contributes to the connection of the human with a higher order of things, with the essential and the immutable truth. The heavenly light in sacred settings illustrates the divine presence and is perceived as an attempt to enrich the inner spiritual experience of Lord as Light.17 This, in turn, fulfills human striving to be closer to the Divine. Moreover, light creates the temporal ambiance of the sacred since it is “the visual sign of the relationship that exists between the architectural work and the cosmic values of the surroundings.” Interestingly Botta treated this relation of light to the cosmos differently in the two churches. The chapel at Monte Tamaro, which is located below the outdoor crucifix, under the walkway on top of the mountain, is dimly lit like a grotto. Natural light penetrates through very small windows in the bottom of the circular sidewalls and through slits from a skylight. This light effect and the space’s strong linear path draw our attention to the artwork at the apes and diminish the invitation to meditation inside a protective ‘cave’ in the mountains. 

In the Mogno church, Botta introduced the ever-changing patterns of light and the relation to the cosmos through a circular glass roof. The sky opens up beyond the glass roof and brings the worshiper closer to the Divine. Two granite buttresses pierce the envelope of the building, arch over the interior and create an axis that aligns with the nave’s axis of the destroyed historic church. The light coming from above highlights this connection to the past and eternity. It also demonstrates Botta’s transformational geometry in stone. This, in turn, creates an interplay of stone layout, natural light, and shadows. In this church, Botta used light to capture the passage of time and establish our relationship with the solar, seasonal cycles and the eternal.  

Intense Text via ArtWay

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Check out more on Mario Botta below



MARIO BOTTA, Mountain Church, Ticino, Switzerland from Ivan Maria Friedman on Vimeo.



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Shelter For Roman Ruins by Peter Zumthor

Shelter For Roman Ruins by Peter Zumthor




Shelter For Roman Ruins by Peter Zumthor located in Chur, Switzerland | The Hardt


Shelter For Roman Ruins by Peter Zumthor located in Chur, Switzerland. Peter Zumthor is a Swiss architect I put right up there with Tadao Ando as my all time favorite. Mr. Zumthor is responsible for designing a piece of architecture so stunning, it made me rethink the entire concept of what a building actually is, from a very rudimentary basis. The building is the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria by Peter Zumthor. I’ll do a post here and a full post on the site this week. But I digress, one of the first big projects for the 2009 Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor was this protective pavilion built to cover the remains of two Roman buildings. Built in 1985-86 and located in the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden.       




Chur is no less than the oldest town in Switzerland: the first settlements found at the site date to 3.500BC. In 15BC the Roman Empire conquered the village and designated Chur (Curia Raetorum) to be the capital of their new funded Roman province of Curia – hence the name Chur.  In those days the location at the right shore of the Rhine River was a strategic crossroad where several of the major Alpine transit routes came together before continuing down river. The Romans inhabited the area that is nowadays called Welschdörfli, just off the historic town center of Chur. In modern days archaeological excavations uncovered a complete Roman quarter. The authorities decided to preserve the excavations and to open them for public exhibition. Local Swiss architect Peter Zumthor was chosen as responsible for the design.



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New Concrete House in Brissago (2013) by Wespi De Meuron Romeo Architects

New Concrete House in Brissago (2013) by Wespi De Meuron Romeo Architects

New Concrete House in Brissago (2013) by Wespi De Meuron Romeo Architects located in Brissago, Switzerland | The Hardt


A simply cut monolith in washed concrete, which is docked directly to the road, rises from the natural topography of the slope. Two cars are parked almost directly on the roof. The visitor is guided down along a linear alleyway to the entrance door.  An entrance courtyard is located directly behind the wooden entrance gate.  Across this courtyard, one enters the house on the top floor and will be received by the kitchen with a long dining table and an open fireplace.  Already when entering, the room open itself to the landscape, the “Lago Maggiore” and the mountains. The entrance door and the glass front to the court can completely be a shift into the wall so that the outside and the interior space flows together in the summertime.  Lift and staircase lead to the lower floors.




At the floor beneath is located the additional living area, with living room, fireplace, library, and TV, as well as a covered outdoor terrace and a generous courtyard with natural stone pavement, two olive trees, and a fountain. Means wide openings to the court and to the outside, exterior and Interior, landscape and architecture forms a unity. The inside participates to the court, like the court participates in the landscape, offering spectacular views. The court can be closed by two wooden gates, which generate a secure feeling. This court becomes The Hardt of the house; different paths join together here, like in a historic village. On both sides of the court walkways and stairs lead down to the large garden terrace with swimming pool and outdoor kitchen.




On the two lower floors of the house are placed three bedrooms and the baths, as well as fitness room and a sauna; they are also connected to the garden and swimming pool by appropriate exits. Due to its spatial diversity, complex relationships between interior and exterior spaces, diverse path choice, this house can be experienced like a historic village.


Photos by ©️ Hennes Henz



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Villa a Pianezzo (2010) by Bonetti e Bonetti Architetti

Villa a Pianezzo (2010) by Bonetti e Bonetti Architetti

Located in Pianezzo, Switzerland, Villa a Pianezzo (2010) by Bonetti e Bonetti Architetti | The Hardt


Located in Pianezzo, Switzerland, Villa a Pianezzo (2010) by Bonetti e Bonetti Architetti. A hillside grew with wines, located at the entrance of Val Morobbia, facing Magadino’s plain landscape at southwest. The steep slope plot is bounded at its lower part by a stone retaining wall that follows the main road.  the project responds to the demand for a simple, compact volume. This decision refers to the “rural” memory that usually looks for a minimum use of the land.


This private residence, whose owners wanted to segregate the adults from the children’s space, responds to a very rich, articulated program: a living room, a kitchen, a suite with closet for the parents, an office, three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a laundry, two storerooms, a wine cellar, a technical room, an outdoor swimming pool and covered parking spaces. The project responds to the demand for a simple, compact volume. This decision refers to the “rural” memory that usually looks for a minimum use of the land. The square monolithic building sits at the bottom of the plot, trying not to interfere in the original topography. We tried to reduce the landscape interventions as much as possible (a single outer passageway for the maintenance of the slope’s vegetation). In contrast with the minimalist, monolithic exterior building’s expression, its interior area looks (more) domestic and generous, where the spatial organization leads to the rediscovery of the landscape. The access is placed at the same level as the main road and is defined by the stone retaining wall. A gallery dug in the ground leads to the rear entrance of the house




The building is organized in three levels: the first one is underground and houses the pedestrians and vehicles’ access; the second one is semi-buried and accommodates the children’s bedrooms, and the upper one houses the living area and the outdoor spaces. The last one is organized around a courtyard bounded by two volumes that extend the living area towards the hillside and the Magadino’s plain landscape. Thus, the relation between the building, the plot and the landscape is restored. In the search for a simple volume, with modest dimensions, we realized that it was necessary to harmonize the building’s height with the slope’s natural topography. To make it possible, we needed to place much of the building beneath the ground level, what required some strategies to guarantee natural light in all indoor spaces. The building’s monolithic aspect is enhanced by the use of exposed reinforced concrete and austere facades with few openings. Thus, light touches the building entirely, establishing a dialogue with the landscape’s large scale.


© Dario Bonetti



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