Martin Bodmer wanted his library to be a literary museum, not only a place for research and study. Visitors, he believed, should feel they were embarking on a long march through time in search of mankind’s spiritual fulfilment and enlightenment.
For Martin Bodmer, the museum had a spiritual dimension. He believed in the magic of documents and the fascination of originals. He wanted his museum to be a spiritual edifice with original documents as its main foundations.
It was an ambitious project: the scope was encyclopaedic, the method symbolic –a single specimen representing a whole – and the foundations made up of irreplaceable, unique and emotionally charged documents.
When he presented his project for a ‘Bodmer Collection Foundation’ in 1970, he stressed that one of its functions would be to organise guided tours.
Martin Bodmer asked Leuppi, an architect from Zurich, to refurbish the large exhibition room and design display cabinets. Small showcases were also added in the basement. But it was soon clear that the space available was too small and he sought ways to expand into the garden and between the two houses. Finally, he chose to build an underground gallery connecting the two buildings.
In 1999, the age and condition of the buildings convinced the Board of the need to expand and renovate the exhibition space by replacing the underground passage way with a new museum better suited to the Collection’s aspirations. The sale of Michelangelo’s famous drawing, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well, provided the necessary funds. An intrepid architect* was chosen: Mario Botta.
From Michelangelo to Mario Botta… a new chapter in the life of the Bodmeriana had begun!
* The choice of architect was supported by Prof. Charles Méla, President of the Foundation, Prof. Martin Bircher, Director, and Ms Elizabeth Macheret. It was approved by Ambassador Gaspard Bodmer, the family representative on the Board.