The Problem of Stripes [Journal Essay]
On a busy street in the Shibuya district of central Tokyo sits Mario Botta’s Watari-um Museum of Contemporary Art. Commissioned in 1985 and completed in 1990, the small gallery extends just five storeys above street level and all but fills its tiny 157m² triangular site. Yet despite its compact size, the Watari-um exerts an emphatic presence and a monumental sense of scale, looming over the street, seemingly massive and impenetrable. In a letter written to his client after the completion of the building, Botta describes the design as a confrontation with the city: ‘a strong and precise sign that had to resist the confusion and the contradiction of languages, styles and forms present in Tokyo’. In the architect’s own words, the building’s elevation manifests its very existence. What Botta neglects to mention is that this facade is entirely covered in stripes…

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Author: Ashley Paine
Journal: AA Files (no. 63)
Publisher: The Architectural Association, London, UK
Date: 2012