No. 463 . 17 February 2010 
ArchitectureWeek
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Bechtler Museum by Botta

by Debra Moffit-Leslie

Clad in a glazed terra cotta tile that lends it an orange hue and a sleek feel, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina, shows Swiss architect Mario Botta shifting subtly from his signature brick and stone.

A mortar-free terra cotta rain screen clads the essential forms of the small museum. The massing block of a fourth-floor gallery reaches out over an entry plaza below, underpinned by a column wrapped in a double-tapered sheath of tiles.

The building's exterior surface combines flat, single-thickness tiles with tiles of triangular cross section, forming textured patterns and creating a play of light and shadow throughout the day. In using the terra cotta, Botta has described his concept of the building as a clay mass carved out by light.

The museum opened on January 2, 2010, as only the second building of Botta's in the United States, after SFMOMA (1995), although his work has flourished in Europe and Asia in the meantime.

Botta says he maintained the open area in an Italian piazza style to give people on the street a sense of being part of the structure. He also aimed to create the feel of a welcoming Southern front porch. Throughout the 36,500-square-foot (3,400-square-meter) building, one gets the sense of being integrated — aware of and able to see what's going on, both inside and out, from all four levels of the building.   >>>

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