Mario Botta – The House at Riva San Vitale


Mario Botta

Mario Botta was born April 1st, 1943, in Mendrisio Switzerland. After an apprenticeship with the architectural firm of Carloni and Camenisch in Lugano, he attended the ArtCollege in Milan and then studied at the University Institute of Architecture in Venice. Le Corbusier, Carlo Scarpa, Louis Kahn influenced him greatly as he was starting out.

Botta designed his first building at age 16, a two-family house at Morbio Superiore in Ticino. This house has very distinct characteristics: inconsistent arrangement of spaces, their relationship to the site, the separation of living from service spaces, and deep window recesses. These characteristics became typical of his stark, strong, towering style.

His designs tend to include a strong sense of geometry. They are often based on very simple shapes, yet create unique volumes of space. His buildings are often made of brick, but uses a wide variety of unique materials as well.

The House at Riva San Vitale.

                A single family house at Riva San Vitale, Ticino, Switzerland, 1971-1973. It was commisioned by Carlo e Leontina Bianc hi. Located at the foot of San Giorgio Mountain, on the banks of Lake Lugano.

The house establishes a relationship with the environment, emphasized by its minimal use of the space and by the thin metal bridge that establishes the physical relationship between the house and the mountain. The 18 meters long pathway emphasizes a separation from the land and exposes the house as an observatory of the surrounding landscape.

The house is organized around a central staircase, allowing you to experience different views as you ascend and descend. All the bedrooms are open to a triple height space, so they communicate visually to each other and to the spaces below.

The house is like a carved geometric shape with four elevations that respond to the surrounding environment: the lake, church of Melano, the meadows, the woods, and the old access road. Each opening frames a specific view and expresses Botta’s belief that architecture is the design of a location. “His facades are not simply a question of decorating the exterior surface of a building. They express a relationship of the interior of the house with the surroundings, the movement of the sun, or the direction to an existing historical construction; they have a geometry that corresponds to the abstraction of the surrounding landscape” (

Botta states that “Every architectural work has its own environment…The first action involved in doing architecture is the consideration of its territory.”



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