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Sacred architecture

Mario Botta explains the relationship of architecture with the sacred.
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The relationship with the sacred is implicit in the very condition of architecture. Architecture encompasses the idea of the sacred because – as I have said before – it transforms the condition of nature into a condition of culture and therefore of the spirit, but above all because
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the first element of the architectural act is to determine a perimeter: to draw the interior in relation to the external macrocosm, to draw the “ecclesia”, so, the interior of the temple is the first act that embodies every work of architecture.
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And from this perspective, if we combine the idea of culture opposing nature and the strength of the perimetral drawing, which is the obligatory event of the architectural act, one can well see the close relationship that exists between a secular space - let’s say: the rest of the world – and the ecclesiastic dimension, therefore internal, that
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brings with it a whole series of elements: the “ecclesia” entails the idea of the threshold – you must enter in this space – the threshold as a moment of transition between two realities; it brings you the idea of the limit - the wall – the idea of a generating light; then, inside the architectural event you discover a multitude of elements which are essential to any event – to use a big word – liturgical. Romano Guardini and Rudolf Schwarz had made extraordinary observations on the liturgical element, which is like a quest for perfection, that is, everything must excel, because the sum of the different parts should give a new unity; and this is part of the instruments of architecture.
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Therefore, architecture, when I say that it entails the idea of the sacred, I don’t think I’m wrong, at least in the meaning that I have in mind.
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As I have said other times, if I could, I would only design churches. Why? Because in the church I find the essential and ultimate reasons for my craft, in other words, the expressive form must not be subjected to mere functions. The theatre, which is equally fascinating, has however had a technological evolution that from the two-dimension optical illusion – the theatres requires optical illusion, it wants people to dream – it has moved on to the three-dimension one, today it has laser effects; so, it has gone through a huge technological development, which has changed the nature of spaces, because if you want to dream within these spaces, you need to change also the physicality.
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Not in the temple, though, because the temple – how can I say it – requires a solution that can only be found inside the construction, in the technical and static elements, and in the culture of its time; so it is a very nice theme, because it speaks about light, about gravity, about the threshold, about the key elements of the architectural event, and in this sense it is perhaps the purest of crafts, because less contaminated by external forces, by technical elements, by distributive elements, thus enabling the architect to give his/her best to the expressive form through the specific instruments of architecture.
The third week presents three special topics: sacred architecture; restoration; and architecture, design and textiles. “If I could, I would only design churches, because in the church I find the essential and ultimate reasons for my craft”: in the first part of third week, Mario Botta will explain the importance of sacred architecture. Then, the relationship between restoration and architecture will be addressed, as a dialogue between past and present: when an architect restores a building, s/he enters a dialogue with the architect who first built it. In the final part of the week, learners will be guided to reflect about some disciplines that are complementary to architecture: interior design and fashion.

Interviewer’s question: “You had to do several times with sacred architecture. What is the relationship of the architect with the temple?”

In this video, Mario Botta explains the relationship of architecture with the sacred: architecture encompasses the idea of the sacred because the first element of the architectural act is to determine a perimeter: to draw the interior in relation to the external macrocosm, so, the interior of the temple is the first act that embodies every work of architecture. In churches, Mario Botta finds the essential and ultimate reasons for his craft, because in them the expressive form must not be subjected to mere functions.
In Summer 2018, Loretta Dalpozzo and Michèle Volontè have directed and produced “Mario Botta. The Space Beyond”, a documentary that is a rare and in-depth artistic journey into the work of Mario Botta. The film explores Mario Botta’s ever growing curiosity and reflections on the contradictions of society, through his sacred spaces. Why does a globalized society feel the urge to build such spaces?
The documentary has been presented at the Locarno Film Festival in July 2018 and is now being distributed in some cities all over the world. You can see the documentary’s programming and the trailer from the official website: http://mariobottathespacebeyond.com/.
What does it mean to you that in sacred architecture an architect can find the essential and ultimate reason for his/her craft? Share your thoughts in the discussion area.
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Mario Botta: To Be an Architect

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