Botta and the Creative Process

In an interview with Mario Botta, renowned architect of sacred spaces and museums, we discussed the creative process.  He outlined five steps that he applies to creating a building.  The same steps can apply to writing and life as well:  1) Use reason to identify a problem; let intuition find the answer.  2) use your work to elevate society; 3) search for the new equilibrium, 4) build on your experience, and 5) foster the growing need for the sacred.


1)  The first step is common though not always conscious – use reason to pinpoint a problem and intuition to solve it.  Often as writers we do this whether we’re fully aware of it or not.  We find ourselves faced with a creative dilemma in a story or non-fiction piece and then in a moment of letting go, the answer comes in a flash while cooking or cleaning or thinking of something else. 


2)  Botta thinks of his work in a social, historical and cultural context.  He loves his work and realizes that what he creates may impact a place and its people for generations to come.  He consciously works to bring a sense of protection and harmony into the constructed space, especially in his sacred spaces, but also at the five star Tschuggen Hotel Bergoase spa and in his office buildings like the Banca Gottardo in Lugano.  By helping people to feel good in a space, he may contribute to their wellbeing, sense of repose and also elevate society.  As writers, our tools are words and concepts that contain the power to uplift and elevate others.  Do we leave people with a good feeling about the interior space we create in their minds with our images and ideas?    


3)  Losing equilibrium marks the start of a good story.  Something shifts and the character falls out of the usual world into a period of struggle and imbalance.  She strives through to the end to regain a sense of equilibrium.  This movement, from one equilibrium to a new one, explains the arc of a normal story in fiction and non-fiction.  It also applies to the creative process of our lives as well, as we fall into periods of imbalance and strive to find the new place that brings us back to an inner and outer equilibrium.


4) Build on experience.  Each step, each new story and article lays the foundation stones for the next work we do.  Through steady, regular work and discipline, our knowledge of writing, structuring and building story grows.  We become more adept at shaping characters and using words to sculpt images on the page.  Each experience may help us to expand as writers.


5)  Foster the sacred.  Botta believes, “There’s a strong but very personal need for the sacred.”  Each person contains a spark of the sacred and through his work Botta may, if the person is so inclined, connect with and ignite this spark.  Every writer and every creative individual may find enrichment by taking time to foster the sacred in herself and her life.  For me this means taking time out to listen to the inner guiding voice of conscience, walking quietly along the river, paying attention to dreams, creating an altar or sacred space at home and really listening to others.  Through fostering the sacred within ourselves and our work, we offer something – an article, a building, a kind thought – that might touch and inspire a soul.  Designing and crafting things is a way to create beauty and to overcome the tension, anxiety and contradictions of daily life, Botta says.  “It is a way to bear witness to hope.”    

Copyright: Debra Moffitt, 2008



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