Architecture’s Quiet Hero
Saint Benedict Chapel, Sumvitg, Switzerland
“In order to design buildings
with a sensuous connection to life,
one must think in a way
that goes far beyond form and construction.”
The Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is the recipient of the 2009 Pritzker Prize, the highest recognition in architecture.
Robin Pogrebin writes: “He is not a celebrity architect — not one of the names that show up on short lists for museums and concert hall projects or known outside of architecture circles. He hasn’t designed many buildings; the one he’s best known for is a thermal spa in an Alpine commune.
And he has toiled in relative obscurity for the last 30 years in a remote village in the Swiss mountains, out of the limelight and away from the crowd.”
Saint Benedicts Chapel, 2005.
To me, buildings can have a beautiful silence
that I associate with attributes such as composure, self-evidence,
durability, presence, and integrity,
and with warmth and sensuousness as well;
a building that is being itself,
being a building, not representing anything,
Interior Therme Vals, Vals, Switzerland
When I concentrate on a specific site or place
for which I am going to design a building,
when I try to plumb its depths, its form, its history,
and its sensuous qualities,
images of other places start to invade
this process of precise observation:
images of places I know
and that once impressed me.
The sense that I try to instill into materials
is beyond all rules of composition,
and their tangibility, smell, and acoustic qualities
are merely elements of the language we are obliged to use.
Photo: Laura Padgett
Sense emerges when I succeed
in bringing out the specific meanings
of certain materials in my buildings,
meanings that can only be perceived
in just this way in this one building.
Swiss Sound Box, Expo 2000, Hanover
The idea of things
that have nothing to do with me as an architect
taking their place in a building, their rightful place –
it’s a thought that gives me an insight into the future
of my buildings:
a future that happens without me.