Santa Maria degli Angeli Chapel
Canton of Ticino Switzerland
Mario Botta 1990-1996; paintings by Enzo
On the furthest extremity of this
building, hanging at an altitude of 1500 meters, is a mechanic structure
of chains and pulleys carrying a Bell. The Bell has three names
inscribed on its surface: Egidio Cattaneo, Mario Botta and Enzo Cucchi.
Mr Cattaneo, a local tycoon
and owner of the Monte Tamaro cable car, commissioned this votive chapel
in remembrance of his deceased wife. It is said that Botta had the whole
mountain to choose a place for the building; in a very practical move
the chapel was located close to the cable car station at the top. In
that position it becomes part of the recreational facilities of the ski
resort, but maintains the uninterrupted view from the cliff into the
This project consists of a
cylindrical volume, a long bridge and a smaller stepped bridge that
flies over the chapel entrance and runs perpendicular to the main axis.
These three elements are interconnected in a fairly straightforward way
under strict rules of symmetry. The project of the chapel is
labyrinthine; it is an infinite path for meditation and thought. There
are different readings to these routes of circulation, from the most
evident following the long bridge from the ground up to the edge of the
cliff and the unlimited view from the roof of the chapel, to others more
circular and obscure.
The first path takes the
visitor to a small balcony with a cross that stands against the
infinitude (an encounter with the universe perhaps). Then, the visitor
would turn around and reach the lower level, descending by the staggered
roof of the chapel and onto the second smaller bridge to finally end up
at the reflecting glass door of the cylinder (an encounter with
himself). Walking into the small chapel the visitor will find an
intimate space of black cement-plastered walls and a soft indirect light
penetrating through low windows which point downwards towards the
valley; natural light also comes in via the indented tier system of the
roof. A linear gap ending up in a square and filled with water (another
Botta icon) guides the visitor towards the altar. Behind it there is a
blue fresco of two hands by Enzo Cucchi which turns white as it fuses
with light (an encounter with God).
Enzo Cucchi's most striking
work is however the depiction of two cypresses running along the vaulted
axis from underneath the entrance of the bridge by the side of the hill
all the way into the chapel. To view this work it is necessary to take
another route from underneath the main bridge in an elevated tunnel with
circular windows. There is a sense of timelessness given the function of
the building, its location and the almost primitive quality of the
porphyre stone of which the project is made. The building like the rest
of Botta's work is bound to its geometry and proportions. Surprising and
most gratifying is the number of situations that the building as a
complex promenade offers.
To reach Rivera: By car, take
the motorway A2 - exit at Rivera-Monte Ceneri. There is a parking lot for
the guests of the cable car. By train: From Bellinzona or Lugano, take a
local train and get off at the Rivera-Bironico station. The cable car is
within walking distance.
Books and other web
Mario Botta's own website provides
information and photographs at www.botta.ch.
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