Banca del Gottardo
Viale Stefano Franscini
Lugano
Canton of Ticino
Switzerland 

Mario Botta 1982-1988 

The Banca del Gottardo is located in the outskirts of the historic center, in an area where the compact form of Lugano becomes dispersed into suburban single family houses. Following the seminal ideas developed during the project and construction of the Ransilla I project (1985) in the center of town, Botta embarks into no less than the redefinition of the role of architecture in the shaping of the city. 

For Botta Architecture is the building block of urbanism not only in the formal but also in the social sense of the word. If the Ransilla I project gave him the opportunity to reconstruct the idea of the urban block by filling an empty corner, then the chance to affect the scattered patterns of the periphery with the building of the Banca del Gottardo became a promise towards a project of reconstruction. This building allowed Botta to contribute his idea of how the city should continue growing. Density of mass, a certain height (22 meters) and the rhythms of the volumes, all add up to this vision. 

The architect conceived a building with a striking presence. The great mass necessary to cover the programmatic requirements of the bank is ingeniously broken into four towers. These towers, which remain connected at the office levels, appear as separate pieces in the main façade, and their rhythm and form reminds you of a medieval fortress. The architect advocates their frontal configuration by calling them 'the façades of the viale, … stone faces' to the street. These masks mark the entrances to the towers, and their design includes the label vertical slit and the horizontal bands of Mario Botta.  

 

Ultimately, these towers are the key elements that accomplish the strong urban presence for the building. However, it seems contradictory that a building with such civic pretensions is in reality a private enclave. The project provides the street with a clear edge and a pedestrian space of generous proportions; there are some semi-public spaces at the ground floor, like the bank's branch hall, but access to the remaining areas is forbidden. The seemingly rich spatial relations established between the inside and outside through the manipulation of form in the towers, remain a privilege for a few. 

In a way this disillusionment awakens the suspicion that the level of formalism in Botta's work at times becomes a barrier for experience instead of an opportunity for questioning expectations and creating new situations. 

Ludwig Abache 2002

 


How to visit

The building is only a short walk from the city center. From the train station take the funicular into the heart of the town. Walk north-west, passing by Piazza Dante, Via Pretorio where you can appreciate the Ransilla I and Ransilla II Projects, and continue north until Via Pretorio becomes Viale Stefano Franscini.

For an interactive map of the city of Lugano see www.lugano.ch/tools/mappa/mappa.cfm


Books and other web sites

Mario Botta's own website provides information and photographs at www.botta.ch.

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