In Cologny, near Geneva, the collection was originally housed in two eclectically designed early twentieth century houses on land Bodmer owned. The need for a larger space inspired the Foundation to commission a new project by Ticino architect Mario Botta in 1998.His proposal, completed in 2003, consisted of a large underground museum on two levels located between the two existing houses. Visitors enter the museum through a lowered courtyard on the side facing the lake in the garden, adjacent to the wall separating it from the road into the village.
The outside reveals nothing about the exhibition space, which is designed as an underground treasure chest, visually representing the need to protect these precious documents.
The presence of the space is however signalled by 5 clear, almost dematerialised volumes: squares about 3.50 metres high whose position near the entrance creates reflections, shadows and perspective screens drawing visitors' attention to the lake. But their presence is linked above all with the need to light up the underground spaces, acting as skylights and revealing the presence of the new exhibition spaces to the visitor. Their geometric form makes them a strong presence in the landscape capable of altering our perceptions with surprising results. The books are displayed in the museum open, resting on thin metal supports, illuminated from above.Their preciousness requires special care, and in fact the showcases are made of rough iron with reinforced glass, like so many little treasure chests.Handwritten pages, papyruses and precious incunabula are displayed like jewellery in a context abounding in symbolic references and a highly evocative atmosphere.
Laura Della Badia