City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Mario Botta exhibition, RIBA, London

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After reading Jonathan Glancey’s glowing recommendation of the Mario Botta exhibition at RIBA yesterday, I took the opportunity to drop in. It’s very special indeed. The architecture would appear to be genuinely beautiful in an awe-inspiring sense – sublime in the original sense of terrifying as much as inspiring, as cathedrals are supposed to (this exhibition – Architetture del Sacro: Prayers in Stone – features eleven of Botta’s churches from the past decade). But the exhibition wisely foregrounds the models of the buildings rather than seriously trying to convey the various chapels through photograph or sketch. In this way, one walks away from the exhibition having genuinely experienced the joy of a construction, albeit in miniature. The exhibition may as well be titled ‘Models of Mario Botta buildings’ such is the attraction of the models themselves.

They’re delicately crafted in wood and jut upwards from the floor, the base of the external form of the building providing the form of the podium itself. It somehow gives the sense of the buildings emerging from a solid block of wood, sculpted by reducing platonic geometric shapes of cones, cylinders, spheres, cubes. It’s a wonderfully simple design solution for an exhibition and unlike computer-printed models, which have their own attraction, they combine real grace, humility and physical presence. Here’s some hastily-taken, very rough snaps, which I’m afraid don’t convey the delight of seeing the actual models. Check it if you can.





The Guardian: Spirits in the sky – Mario Botta’s buildings
Flickr: Mario Botta exhibition snaps


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