Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

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Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
South Tryon and First streets

Part of the budding Wachovia cultural campus, this is by far the best of the recent crop. No surprise. It has the best architect, internationally known Swiss designer Mario Botta, working with Charlotte’s Wagner Murray Architects.

At the heart of Botta’s architecture is a kind of modernist classicism, expressed in the cool geometry of the building—a cube with a piece cut out. Over that cut, Botta used a dramatic gesture for the main exhibition area, a cantilevered fourth level supported only by a single, bulbous column. The sheltered space beneath will provide not only a welcoming entrance, but what Charlotte needs more of, a place for people to gather, as in "Meet me in front of the Bechtler."

The building’s color startles: a flowerpot orange that rebukes the timid palette of downtown. The color, plus horizontal bands of terra cotta tiles that catch the light, helps the building stand out—and stand up to its taller neighbors.