Church of San Giovanni Battista, Mogno, Switzerland, 1996, Mario Botta. From Stone by William Hall

The New Stone Age: Church of San Giovanni Battista

When Mario Botta came to design a new church, he took ancient building materials and gave them a novel twist

In 1986, an avalanche hit the tiny Swiss village of Mogno, flattening the hamlet’s seventeenth-century church. Architect, Mario Botta, who lived locally, was appointed to design Mogno’s new church and he created a striking, durable, rocky building for the village. Here’s how William Hall describes Botta’s new structure in his new book Stone.

“Alternate layers of white marble and dark gneiss from neighbouring quarries provide lively and uplifting patterning,” explains Hall in Stone. “Daylight floods the tiny church through the sloping glass ceiling.”

Little of the original church could be salvaged though Botta managed to place two mid-eighteenth century bells pulled from the old rubble, in the new building. Instead, he set about creating an untraditional building from a traditional material.


Stone by William Hall
Stone by William Hall

Botta even excluded conventional windows from his design; the church is instead illuminated via a glass roof. Opening in 1996, a decade after the avalanche, the new Church of San Giovanni Battista was, understandably, rather controversial initially. Today however, this striking stone building has found fans both locally and further afield.

For a closer look at this material's ancient history, and some eye catching examples of its spectacular present, buy a copy of Stone here. You can also buy all of Hall's books as a special offer in our Building Materials collection here or pick them up individually: take a look at ConcreteBrick and Wood.