Architecture and Environmental Design Faculty Publications

Document Type



This paper examines the Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel (CDN), which opened in 2000, as the site of a “dialogue” between the ideas and practice of Switzerland’s best-known Italian-speaking architect and designer, Mario Botta, and the country’s best-known German-speaking playwright, Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990). The CDN becomes a double portrait of two Swiss artists, separated by parole but not Sprache. Both felt peripheral to Swiss society, yet each was a product of the cantonal principle of strong regionalism aerated by the Federation’s facilitation of cosmopolitanism aligned in an environmental ecology that literally and figuratively mixed their respective media: the concrete for the ephemeral (Dürrenmatt) and luminous fluidity for the concrete (Botta).

The central thesis is that the CDN inducts the visitor in a role of active participation and exchange in an atmosphere of transcendental logic and, ultimately, however ironically, optimism. A visitor to the CDN becomes part of a theatrical event in which two actors – one dead, one alive –communicate in physical terms about the metaphysical environment, the relationship between the scenographic and the tectonic, the architecture of the interior. Dürrenmatt, at once Aristotelian, reckless, immoderate, romantic, outraged, engages Botta, a Neo-Rationalist who barely manages to contain his shouts; a rationalist who honors intuition along side reason.

Publisher's Statement

"This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Journal of Architecture, vol. 12, no. 3, 2007, available at

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Architecture


Taylor & Francis


Start Page No.


End Page No.