The Bianchi House, designed by renowned Italian architect Mario Botta in 1971, is a masterpiece of modern architecture. Located on a steep hillside above the picturesque village of Riva San Vitale, overlooking Lake Lugano, the house boasts a unique design that seamlessly integrates with its natural surroundings. Botta designed the house with multiple levels that resemble a tower, taking advantage of the topography of the site to create a distinct and captivating structure. The house’s prime location on the shores of Lake Lugano, combined with its innovative design, makes it a significant landmark in the area and a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts.
Bianchi House Technical Information
- Architects: Mario Botta
- Location: Ticino, Riva San Vitale, Switzerland
- Client: Leontina and Carlo Bianchi
- Topics: Concrete, 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 Botta1
Bianchi House Photographs
The Bianchi House: A Masterpiece of Compositional Methods
The Bianchi House was a project commissioned by Swiss couple Carlo and Leontina Bianchi, close friends of architect Mario Botta. The family had previously worked with Botta on a renovation project and, in 1971, approached him to design their new home in Ticino’s canton, located at the foot of Monte San Giorgio, with stunning views of Lake Lugano. Despite having similar requirements to their previous project, such as a cost-effective home with bedrooms for a family of four, the approach for the new house was entirely distinct. Botta designed the house from the roof down, creating a clear and defined primary geometric form that echoed Le Corbusier’s dedication to elemental shapes.
The Bianchi House is considered a showcase of Botta’s compositional methods, featuring a series of large vertical subtractions that generate voids of varying heights. The design emphasizes a strong vertical presence to maintain a connection with the surrounding mountains and retain a sense of verticality. A red metal bridge connects the road uphill to the house, which is perfectly square in plan and features a square staircase at its center. The house configuration gradually decreases in inhabitable space density as you move down the levels, making way for interior terraces that project into the living areas.
On the upper floor, which serves as the entrance level, there is a hall, study, and staircase leading to the lower floors. The master bedroom is located on the second floor, while the children’s bedroom is on the first floor. These spaces are partially open and connected to the living area on the ground floor. Throughout the house, Botta’s trademark vertical design is evident in the functional distribution of spaces.
A Blend of Interior and Exterior Spaces
The Bianchi House, designed by Mario Botta, seamlessly blends interior and exterior spaces through the use of terraces and open and closed spaces. The terraces, located on the entrance level, third floor, and first floor, are integrated within the building’s form, serving as deep openings that offer breathtaking views of Lake Lugano and Mt. Generoso.
Botta’s appreciation for nature is evident in the design of the house, with large windows and open spaces intentionally positioned to the south and east, offering expansive views of the landscape. The varying heights of the ceilings and floors further emphasize the optical and spatial interaction between the interior and exterior. For example, the living room on the third floor features a three-story-high window that overlooks the lake to the east.
By isolating the building from the city center, Botta invites others to appreciate nature and encourages a connection between the interior spaces and the alpine landscape. The terraces and open spaces serve as links between the two, creating a harmonious relationship between the built and natural environments.
Villa Bianchi Floor Plan and Elevation
Bianchi House Image Gallery
About Mario Botta
Mario Botta is a highly influential Swiss architect born in 1943. With a passion for architecture from an early age, he designed his first building at the young age of 16, a two-family house in Morbio Superiore, Ticino. Despite its inconsistent arrangements of spaces, this early structure showcases key elements that would later define Botta’s distinctive style, including a strong connection to the site, clear separation of living and service spaces, and deep window recesses. Botta’s designs are characterized by a strong sense of geometry, often based on elementary shapes, yet resulting in innovative and unique space volumes. He is known for his use of brick as a building material, which he employs in a broad and varied manner, creating unique and memorable structures.
- Extract from Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre, Architecture in Europe Since 1968: Memory and Invention (New York: Thames and Hudson), 1992, 64-67.