Praised as one of the best completed works by 2009 Pritzker Laureate Peter Zumthor, the Vals Thermal Baths might be one of the most iconic buildings in Swiss contemporary architecture. Already in 1998, just two years after its opening, it became a national monument. The building definitely rewards its visitors with the rare pleasure of experiencing a genuine example of timeless architecture.
Atelier Peter Zumthor
By Martin Søberg
Impeccable consideration for the details of construction make the buildings designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor appear as shrines celebrating a heightened sense of bodily and mental awareness. His houses stand out against their surrounding contexts, whether urban environments or natural landscapes, as statements of formal clarity.
To Zumthor (born 1943), architecture is principally about construction. He is concerned with the fundamental challenge of how to connect and assemble materials, how to merge or contrast. In line with this attitude, one may localize a sensitivity stemming from his early training as a cabinetmaker in his fathers Basel workshop: Zumthor's buildings adhere to the precision and care for detail required when crafting an exquisite piece of furniture, fit for the human body, demonstrating knowledge of its material, and present in space as a an object fashioned for our attention.
Having worked as a conservationist architect provides Zumthor with a profound sense of materials, which he combines with a distinguished sense of clarity and unity. His architecture sparks from direct engagement with the world, with reality; it is almost visceral in its awareness of situated being.
Gently guided from one room to another, we may experience the smoothness of highly polished concrete floors, the lightness of golden curtains, or the softness of seats in tight leather upholstery. It testifies to Zumthor's concern not only for the visual but also for the acoustic, tactile, and even olfactory aspects of architecture.
Contrary to many of his contemporaries, he dares speak of beauty, which might define him as a romantic. However to assess his architecture as convoluted is to neglect his consciousness of societal and cultural forces. A certain attitude of pragmatism, relating to what is at hand - which materials, which landscapes, which fragments - informs his personal poetics of presence through the creation of atmospheric experiences of space.
Most of Zumthor's projects are to be found in the German speaking countries; yet the uniqueness of Zumthor's architecture is reflected by worldwide accolades. He received the Carlsberg Architecture Prize in 1998, the Praemium Imperiale in 2008, is the 2009 Pritzker Prize laureate and winner of the 2013 RIBA Royal Gold Medal.
See also: Peter Zumthor's proposal for a new LACMA
One of the first big projects for the 2009 Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor was this protective pavilion built to cover the remains of two Roman buildings. Built in 1985-86 and located in the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, arcspace had the opportunity to revisit and photograph the site this summer. It’s astonishing to think it was designed and built almost thirty years ago. Not only does it still stand in perfect condition but it looks like it was conceived just yesterday.
Built on the ruins of the Gothic Church of St. Columba in the old center of Cologne, not far from the city’s spectacular cathedral, revered Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Museum stands as an equally uplifting and melancholic testament to the glorious and the bleak chapters of the city’s past.
The recently inaugurated Brother Claus Field Chapel is located in Mechernich near Cologne, Germany.
This year's pavilion is the 11th commission in the Gallery's annual series. It is Zumthor's first completed building in the UK and includes a specially created garden by the influential Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.