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This content is taken from the Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI)'s online course, Mario Botta: To Be an Architect. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Borromini is, in a way, a neighbour, and is therefore closely observed, with indulgence, as you would do with friends and neighbours, but – well – I see myself as a post-war child, in the sense that I was born in ’43, the great wars were over, my cultural training was therefore post-Bauhaus, where Modernism had already seen the great changes as compared to industry, to production, and also in relation to the way of life; therefore, my mentors are the artistic avantgards – so to say – of the 20th century, starting from – we must not forget – the pure artistic avantgards, that is Picasso, Klee, Duchamp (as a contemporary, you cannot overlook Duchamp, for his ethical upheaval of aesthetic values); and so, let’s say, my mentors – to answer your question – are the masters of the Modernist movement, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier; later, I had the privilege to meet with Louis Kahn in Venice, who is, in my opinion, a great thinker of the twentieth century.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds And what do we learn from these masters? Mostly, not so much the language; whoever copies normally copies the faults of the others; instead, you can learn – as they say – the primary forces. Louis Kahn would say to us students, asking him about the institutions (he had theorized about them)…

Skip to 2 minutes and 25 seconds I remember one answer to our question “What is school?”, he replied: “it’s two men talking to each other under a tree”; thus the principle of communication and the tree as a microclimate, like an environment, like architecture. I believe this ability to seek the origins of problems is the great lesson of the masters. They teach principles, not their applications.

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 seconds Scarpa: in Venice, I met

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds with – let’s say – three gods of architecture: first, Le Corbusier, who came to Venice from Paris to work on the project of the Ospedali Riuniti, therefore a project for a new hospital which was never built but which raised certain issues about healthcare buildings; then I met with Carlo Scarpa, who was my professor for five years in Venice; and Louis Kahn, finally, for the other Palazzo dei Congressi. So, in a way I am condemned to do well, because I have met with these people – they were three essential figures of the Modernist culture, the work of all three was

Skip to 3 minutes and 50 seconds focused on the human individual: Scarpa through the craftsman, who has the manual skills, the ability to sculpt stone, to carve wood, to model plaster; Le Corbusier, who transformed the problems of life into architecture. The lesson of Le Corbusier is that every social

Skip to 4 minutes and 18 seconds transformation would become a new kind of architecture for him: the social housing, then the great together, then the museums; and Louis Kahn, with his ability to seek the origins of problems.

Mario Botta and his masters

The final week of this course will focus on Mario Botta himself: his masters, (some of) his most recent works, the Academy of Architecture he founded. Mario Botta will introduce his three main masters: Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn and Carlo Scarpa, explaining what he learnt from them. Then, Mario Botta will explain the philosophy behind the foundation of the Academy of Architecture: a humanistic approach to the “building” of an architect; the presentation of the Theatre of Architecture, which is connected to the Academy, will close this section. In the last part of the course, one of his most recent works, the “Stone flower” on top of the Monte Generoso will be presented.

Interviewer’s question: “Who were your masters in your training to become an architect?”

In this video, Mario Botta introduces his masters and what he has learnt from them: Carlo Scarpa, Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier. The work of all three was focused on the human individual: Scarpa through the craftsman; Le Corbusier, who transformed the problems of life into architecture; and Louis Kahn, with his ability to seek the origins of problems. Louis Kahn was the subject of the exhibition that in October 2018 inaugurated the programme of the new USI Theatre of Architecture designed by Mario Botta: Louis Kahn and Venice. You can find more info on the exhibition, curated by Elisabetta Barizza in collaboration with Gabriele Neri, here: https://www.usi.ch/en/feeds/8286.

Find one work of Mario Botta where you can see the influence of one of the masters he mentions. Post through Padlet one picture of the work and explain where you see the influence (please remember to add your name to the post).

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This video is from the free online course:

Mario Botta: To Be an Architect

Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI)

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