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Peter Zumthor


One of the key exponents of contemporary Swiss architecture and winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2009, Peter Zumthor (1943) studied interior architecture at the Pratt Institute, New York and Schule für Gestaltung in Basel.
His early career included working as a carpenter specializing in furniture (trained by his cabinetmaker father) as well as working as a building consultant for the protection of historic monuments in the Swiss canton of Grigioni (1968-1979).
The latter led him to write a number of articles on villages in the canton.

He established his professional practice in Haldenstein in 1979, and also lectured at prestigious universities in Los Angeles, Munich, Bavaria and Academy of Architecture, Mendrisio.
Zumthor “has created dozens of projects, milestones in contemporary architecture. His buildings explore the tactile and sensory qualities of space and materials" (M. Guernieri).
His architecture is characterized by “a strong link with place, and his first projects were based on historic forms and types” (Kubler). Examples include the Rath Twin House in Haldenstein and school in Churwalden (1982-1983), protective structures over Roman excavations in Chur (1986) and his own studio in Haldenstein (1985-1986).

As a result, Zumthor created his own personal style of “great conceptual and executive rigor”, as a direct consequence of his theoretical and critical reflections, paying meticulous attention to detail and choice of materials.
His personal style “references archetypal forms and innovative inspiration which create an original synthesis without ever resorting to gratuitous emphasis” (Treccani).
His projects in the canton of Grigioni, completed in the eighties and nineties, include the chapel of San Benedetto, Sumvitg (1988), in collaboration with his wife, Annalisa Cuorad), a retirement home in Chur-Masans (1993) and restoration of the Gugalum House, Safiental (1993).

Highly evocative projects include the renowned spa complex in Vals (1996, with E. Kob and C. Schedler) and wooden Swiss pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hannover.
In Austria, he created the Kunsthaus Bregenz (KUB) Museum of Contemporary Art, (1997), Topographie des Terrors international documentation center, Berlin (2002) and Kolumba Diocesan Museum, Cologne (2007).
His few, select projects in recent years are also characterized by "meticulous almost maniacal attention to detail (...) experimenting with models which reached a scale of 1:1". (Domus)

The chapel of Saint Nicholas of Flue, Hof Scheidtweiler, Mechernich (2007) is a small building created free of charge, in view of his mother’s devotion to the patron saint of Switzerland. A seemingly very simple architectural example, largely constructed in collaboration with farmers and friends of the client, the chapel was built with just over one hundred tree trunks from the nearby forest. Layers of concrete and gravel were cast around these over a period of a few weeks. Subsequently they were "set alight and left to burn slowly for more than twenty days creating a material similar to charcoal" (R. Albertini). Once the residual wood was removed, the result was "special indentations on the interior of the building (...) a series (350) of holes created in the concrete filled with hand-blown glass".
The interior design was completed by a small opening at the top to ensures light from above, while outside is a small cross near the triangular-shaped door.

The Steilneset Memorial (2011), comprising two independent structures, was created by Zumthor at Vardø (Norway), in collaboration with the artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). The monument commemorates 91 people tried and burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1621. The largest of the two buildings is a 125 meter fiberglass structure in the shape of a corridor, suspended by steel cables.
Along the narrow corridor are 91 small, randomly placed windows. The second building, made of Corten steel and glass, contains an installation by Bourgeois: a metal chair with a perpetual flame, which recalls the torture of those condemned.
More recently, Zumthor designed the Zinc Mine Museum in Sauda, southern Norway ((2016) inside a 19th century mine. This tourist and exhibition trail connects a series of small wooden buildings on stilt supports with zinc doors and roofs which house a permanent exhibition of mining artefacts and relics together with refreshment areas. Ideally situated in a landscape of steep granite cliffs, the work references the harshness and drudgery of work in the mine.

His publications include: Thinking architecture (1998); Peter Zumthor works. Buildings and projects 1979-1997 (1998); Atmospheres (2006).
In addition to the Pritzker Prize (2009), he has received worldwide recognition including winning the Japanese Praemium Imperiale in 2008 and RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2013.
Peter Zumthor selected works and projects
- Ricostruzione della sezione orientale del campus LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (USA), 2019 (previsto 2024)
- Museo della Miniera di Zinco, Allmannajuvet (Norvegia), 2016
- Centro per l'artigianato Werkraum Bregenzerwald, Andelsbuch (Austria), 2012
- Steilneset Memorial (con Louise Bourgeois), Vardø (Norvegia), 2011
- Padiglione della Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 2011
- Kunstmuseum Kolumba, Colonia (Germania), 2007
- Cappella votiva di San Nicola de Flüe a Hof Scheidtweiler, Mechernich (Germania), 2007
- Progetto di una Chiesa, Milano Santa Giulia (Italia), 2005
- Centro internazionale di documentazione Topographie des Terrors, Berlino (Germania), 2002
- Padiglione svizzero al’Expo 2000, Hannover (Germania), 2000
- Kunsthaus, Bregenz (Austria), 1997
- Complesso termale, Vals (Svizzera), 1996
- Quartiere residenziale Spittelhof, Basilea (Svizzera), 1995
- Residenza per anziani, Masans (Svizzera), 1993
- Restauro casa Gugalum, Safiental (Svizzera), 1993
- Cappella San Benedetto, Sumvitg (Svizzera), 1988
- Copertura di protezione degli scavi archeologici romani, Coira (Svizzera), 1986
- Atelier Zumthor, Haldenstein (Svizzera), 1986
- Doppia abitazione Rath, Haldenstein (Svizzera), 1983
- Scuola, Churwalden (Svizzera), 1983

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