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Bechtler Museum pays homage to building’s designer
‘Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory” runs through July 25
Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

Renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta, designer of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, delivers a lecture during the unveiling of the exhibition "Mario Botta: Architecture adn Memory," which is on display at the Bechtler through July 25.

Museums in Uptown Charlotte are known for their architectural structures, which are often just as aesthetically fascinating as the treasured art collections housed inside.

This weekend, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art unveiled a new exhibition paying homage to the man behind its unique design – famed Swiss architecture Mario Botta.

“Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory” runs through July 25, showcasing Botta’s body of work ranging from private residences in the Swiss Alps to urban projects in Europe and Asia.

“This exhibition is a celebration of the Bechtler building as the single largest object in our collection,” said John Boyer, Bechtler's president and CEO. “It is a reminder of the powerful uniqueness of this commission in the United States and an acknowledgement of the important relationship between architecture and other forms of art.”

Botta, who attended the opening ceremonies and delivered a lecture, is among the most noted architects on an international scale and considered one of the foremost designers of churches and museums. The great number and wide variety of commissions the 70-year-old architect has received in the last 50 years have long established his reputation and status.

The Bechtler is one of only two commissions Botta has accepted in America. The other is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Botta, who does not speak English, said through an interpreter that part of what intrigued him about the project was its location. He said that in business-driven city like Charlotte, it was exciting to be a part of creating “a thought institution” to serve as “a place for reflection, meditation and thinking” in the center of it all.

In recent decades, Botta has focused on creating major public buildings. The exhibition features sketches, original wood models and photographs for 30 of these projects. More than 200 objects are on display throughout the museum’s entire fourth-floor gallery including wooden stools designed by Botta, which provide seating for the exhibitions digital slideshows.

Whether he is designing libraries, museums or churches, Botta seems to find a spiritual connection between the building people.

He likens theaters to “magical boxes” where people come to dream. He sees libraries as spaces where knowledge and memory are kept alive.

“They are cases containing the thinking and the hopes of past generations,” he writes in a paper detailing the themes behind the exhibition. “Libraries permit us to voice a larger history that goes beyond our human time limits. For this reason they take on symbolic aspects. They become emerging or monumental presences reaffirming their exceptional nature and their collective meanings.”

As for museums, Botta said: “A museum to me is a space that really resembles a church space. The visitor goes to ask questions of the artist to understand the complexities of the world. They ask, ‘What is Jean Tinguely saying to me? What is Picasso saying to me?’ It’s a spiritual place.”

He said museums have now become new meeting places, sometimes for entertainment to satisfy free time, adding that the challenge of the architect is to “interpret these new hybrid institutions considering these contradictions.”

Also included in the exhibition are letters and sketches by architects and others who have influenced Botta. The Bechtler Museum is the only U.S. venue for the exhibit, which was made possible with a grant from Wells Fargo Private Bank.

“We are proud to demonstrate our continued support of Charlotte’s cultural community by sponsoring a show highlighting one of the world’s masters of architecture,” said Wells Fargo Private Bank Regional Director Madelyn Caple. “The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art building… is a gem of contemporary architecture not only in Charlotte, North Carolina, but in all of the United States.”

The exhibition will be supplemented by a catalogue and roster of public educational programs, including a screening of “Tamaro: Stones and Angels” Feb. 21. The documentary follows Botta and painter Enzo Cucchi during the planning and execution of a chapel with elaborate frescoes.

For schedules and more information, visit Bechtler.org.


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