The Bianchi House was designed by Italian architect Mario Botta in 1971. Built on a sharply inclined hillside above the village of Riva San Vitale on the shores of Lake Lugano, the house is set in the lower part of the plot and laid out on different levels like a tower.
Bianchi House Technical Information
- Architects: Mario Botta
- Location: Ticino, Riva San Vitale, Switzerland
- Client: Leontina and Carlo Bianchi
- Material: Concrete
- Typology: Residential Architecture / House
- Scale: 5 story house
- Project Year: 1971
- Construction Year: 1972-1973
- Site Area: 850 m2
- Net area: 220 m2
- Drawings and Photographs: © Mario Botta Architects
Architecture is the constant fight between man and nature, the fight to overwhelm nature, to possess it. The first act of architecture is to put a stone on the ground. That act transforms a condition of nature into a condition of culture; it’s a holy act.
– Mario Botta
Bianchi House Photographs
Text by the Architects
Swiss couple Carlo and Leontina Bianchi were close friends of Mario Botta when he reformed an old apartment in the small village of Genestrerio for them. Not long after, in 1971, when Botta had recently graduated, the family commissioned him for a new house project, but this time in Ticino’s canton, at the foot of Monde San Giorgio and with views over Lake Lugano. Although the list of requirements was very similar to the previous project, a cost-effective house with bedrooms for a couple with two children, the thought process for the new home was very distinct. It became like building a house from the roof down.
The house can be considered as a compendium of all the compositional methods characteristic of Botta. A home determined from a clear and defined primary geometric form, in what could be perceived as an echo of Le Corbusier’s dedication to elemental forms. The figure is comprised of a series of large vertical subtractions that generate voids of various heights. In relation to its surroundings, the work intends to achieve a primarily vertical volume not to lose its crucial connection with the mountains, as they are also presented in a vertical form.
A red metal bridge links the road uphill to the house. The configuration, perfectly square in plan, with the square staircase at its center, is modified on different levels with the gradual decrease in habitable space density, making ay for interior terraces that project out into the various living areas. The vertical dimension is maintained even in the functional distribution: on the upper floor, corresponding to the entrance level, there are the hall, the study, and the staircase leading to the lower floors. There is the master bedroom on the second level whereas the children’s bedroom is on the first floor. These spaces are partially open and linked to the living area on the ground floor.
The house contains terraces and open and closed spaces functioning as links between the interior spaces and alpine landscape. The terraces, located in the entrance level, the third and first floor, are constructed within the building’s block form, as deep openings within the building, rather than platforms attached to the building. Such openings are situated at the south and east side of the building, revealing the expansive view of Lake Lugano and Mt. Generoso.
The optical and spatial interaction between interior and exterior is also highlighted in the ceiling and floor’s varying heights. The living room in level three has a window three stories high, which, similarly to the terraces, overlooks Lake Lugano in the east. By isolating the building from the city center, intentionally positioning the large windows and open spaces at the building’s south and east, Botta showed an appreciation for nature and invited others to do so.
Villa Bianchi Floor Plan and Elevation
Bianchi House Image Gallery
About Mario Botta
Mario Botta is a Swiss architect born in 1943. He designed his first buildings at age 16, a two-family house at Morbio Superiore in Ticino. While the arrangements of spaces in this structure are inconsistent, its relationship to its site, separation of living from service spaces, and deep window recesses echo of what would become his stark, robust, and towering style. His designs tend to include a strong sense of geometry, often being based on elementary shapes, yet creating unique space volumes. His buildings are usually made of brick, yet his use of the material is broad, varied, and often unique.
- Extract from Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre, Architecture in Europe Since 1968: Memory and Invention (New York: Thames and Hudson), 1992, 64-67.