The Swiss architect Mario Botta once described his hometown as “madre e matrigna” — “mother and stepmother” — an apt description for the Italian-speaking Swiss province of Ticino, which possesses cultural sensibilities of both nations. And just like his nuanced patrimony, the architectural style Botta has honed over a 50-year career stems from a mixture of influences. His half-century of work is celebrated in “Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory,” a monograph just released from Silvana Editoriale ($60 at artbook.com).
The book’s release follows, by two months, a major exhibition with the same title at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, N.C., which Botta designed in 2009. Americans may also know Botta as the architect of the iconic 1995 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His buildings combine elements of Neo-Rationalism — which privileges symmetrical spatial arrangements and bold geometric formations — with the minimalist tenets of high Modernism, which Botta gleaned from working briefly in the studios of Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier. “Architecture and Memory” recounts stories from Botta’s time with these masters — including his task measuring the circumference of trees for Kahn’s unrealized Venice congress center. Botta’s design process relies on patience and slowness, a refreshing counterpoint to the rapid-fire modular design of today. […]