Peter Zumthor - A Portfolio of Selected Architecture

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1986: Protective Housing for Roman Excavations, Chur, Graubünden, Switzerland

Protective Housing for Roman Excavations in Chur
Peter Zumthor, Architect Protective Housing for Roman Excavations in Chur. Photo © Helene Binet, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Photos and Drawings of Projects by Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor lives in a remote village in the Swiss mountains, but his quiet, carefully crafted projects have won world acclaim. Peter Zumthor writes:

"I believe that architecture today needs to reflect on the tasks and possibilities which are inherently its own. Architecture is not a vehicle or a symbol for things that do not belong to its essence. In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. I believe that the language of architecture is not a question of a specific style. Every building is built for a specific use in a specific place and for a specific society. My buildings try to answer the questions that emerge from these simple facts as precisely and critically as they can."
~ Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor
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Select each picture to learn about some of Peter Zumthor's buildings.

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor describes the structures he designed to protect ancient Roman ruins excavated in Chur, Switzerland.

"In the 4th century AD, Chur was the Roman capital of the province of Curia—hence the name Chur. The Romans inhabited the area now called the Welschdörfli (French-speaking Swiss village), Chur's small amusement strip just off the historic town centre, where, it is said, people still spoke Churerwelsch though the people in town were already speaking German.

"Archaeological excavations in this area have uncovered a complete Roman quarter. The protective structures – wind-permeable wooden enclosures – follow the outer walls of three adjacent Roman buildings (only a small part of one of these was excavated). The site's display cases along the street skirt the protruding foundations of the former house entrances.

A wall painting was found lying on the floor of the larger building. Restored and returned to its original position, it gives an impression of the probable height of the single-storey houses.

"The charred remains of a wooden floor at the back of the larger building are from Roman times."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

02
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1988: Saint Benedict Chapel in Sumvitg, Graubünden, Switzerland

St. Benedict Chapel in Switzerland
Peter Zumthor, Architect St. Benedict Chapel in Switzerland. Photo © Helene Binet, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor discusses the new wooden chapel he designed for the village of Sogn Benedetg (St. Benedict) in Switzerland.

"In 1984 an avalanche destroyed the baroque chapel in front of the village of Sogn Benedetg (St. Benedict). A recently built parking lot had acted like a ramp pushing the snow from the avalanche up against the chapel. The new site on the original path to the Alp above the small village is protected from avalanches by a forest. The new wooden chapel, faced with larch wood shingles, was inaugurated in 1988.

"The village authorities sent us the building permit with the comment senza perschuasiun (without conviction). Yet the abbot and monks of the Disentis Monastery and the then village priest Bearth wanted to build something new and contemporary for future generations."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

See a video of Saint Benedict Chapel

03
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1993: Homes for Senior Citizens in Masans, Graubünden, Switzerland

Homes for Senior Citizens in Graubünden Switzerland by Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor, Architect Senior housing in Masans, Graubünden, Switzerland. Photo © Helene Binet, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor discusses his design for senior housing in Masans near Chur in Graubünden, Switzerland.

"The twenty-two flats of the residential development for the elderly in Masans near Chur are occupied by senior citizens still able to run their own households, but happy to use the services offered by the nursing home behind their own building.

"Many of the residents grew up in mountain villages around the area. They have always lived in the country and feel at home with the traditional building materials used here – tuff, larch, pine, maple, solid wood flooring and wooden panelling.

"The residents are welcome to furnish as they please their section of the large entrance porch to the east, which they overlook from their kitchen windows, and they make ample use of this opportunity. The sheltered balcony niches and the living room bow (bay) windows on the other side face west, up the valley, towards the setting sun."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

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1996: Thermal Bath at Vals, Graubünden, Switzerland

Thermal Bath at Vals in Graubünden, Switzerland
Peter Zumthor, Architect Thermal Bath at Vals in Graubünden, Switzerland. Photo © Helene Binet, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor discusses the design and construction of his widely praised Thermal Bath at Vals in Graubünden, Switzerland.

"In 1983 the commune of Vals acquired the bankrupt hotel complex, built in the 1960s, for very little money, but without much enthusiasm. But something had to be done in order to rescue existing jobs. When a larger new building with integrated thermal baths and new guest rooms proved too costly, the authorities opted for the thermal baths as a first step.

"We were told it should be something special, unique. It should fit in with Vals and attract new guests. In 1991 the project was presented at a village meeting with a water-filled stone model. Construction started in 1994, and the thermal baths were opened in 1996. Since then, over 40,000 people have visited them every year. Since completion, the overnight stays in the village and in the Hotel Therme have increased by about 45 per cent.

"The load-bearing composite structure of the baths consists of solid walls of concrete and thin slabs of Vals gneiss broken and cut to size in the quarry just behind the village. The thermal water which comes from the mountain just behind the baths has a temperature of 30°C."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

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2000: Swiss Sound Box, Swiss Pavilion, Expo 2000

Swiss Sound Box at the 2000 Expo in Hanover, Germany by architect Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor, Architect Swiss Sound Box at the 2000 Expo in Hanover, Germany. Photo © Walter Mair, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor discusses his plan for a Swiss Pavilion called a Swiss Sound Box at the 2000 Expo in Hanover, Germany.

"We called the Swiss Pavilion for the 2000 Hanover Expo Klangkörper Schweiz. Instead of showing theoretical or virtual information to promote Switzerland, our basic idea was to offer something concrete to Expo visitors, who would be tired from studying all the messages in the other national pavilions: a welcoming place to rest, a place to just be, a place offering a tasty little something from Switzerland for thirsty or peckish visitors, and live music unplugged, moving and changing throughout the space, a relaxed atmosphere as well as beautifully dressed attendants.

"The idea of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk had fired our imagination. Dramatic music played by musicians moving around, culinary offers, fashion and key words about Switzerland written in light on the eams and with a light hand: all this was designed to merge with the architecture, a spatial structure of wooden beams.

"Taking the Expo theme of sustainability seriously, we constructed the pavilion out of 144 km of lumber with a cross-section of 20 x 10 cm, totalling 2,800 cubic metres of larch and Douglas pine from Swiss forests, assembled without glue, bolts or nails, only braced with steel cables, and with each beam being pressed down on the one below. After the closure of the Expo, the building was dismantled and the beams sold as seasoned timber."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

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2002: Luzi House in Jenaz, Graubünden, Switzerland

Luzi House in Jenaz, Switzerland by Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor, Architect The Luzi House in Jenaz, Switzerland. Photo © Walter Mair, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor designed the Luzi House in Jenaz, Switzerland for a family who sought sunlight and simplicity.

Located in the center of Jenaz, the Luzi House is a private residence with a separate granny flat or a Stoeckli as it is called in Switzerland. Architect Peter Zumthor designed the home for a couple with six small children.

The clients requested that Peter Zumthor build for them a "spacious, expansive house with lightfilled rooms, everything constructed of solid wood; a further development of the blockhouses typical of this village, without any extra frills, with large windows and large balconies full of flowers."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

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2007: Brother Klaus Field Chapel in Wachendorf, Eifel, Germany (Exterior)

Brother Klaus Field Chapel by Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor, Architect Brother Klaus Field Chapel by Peter Zumthor. Wachendorf, Eifel, Germany. Photo © Walter Mair, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor discusses his design for the Brother Klaus Field Chapel in in Wachendorf, Eifel, Germany.

"The field chapel dedicated to Swiss Saint Nicholas von der Flüe (1417–1487), known as Brother Klaus, was commissioned by farmer Hermann- Josef Scheidtweiler and his wife Trudel and largely constructed by them, with the help of friends, acquaintances and craftsmen on one of their fields above the village.

"The interior of the chapel room was formed out of 112 tree trunks..."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

See the interior of the Brother Klaus Field Chapel

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2007: Brother Klaus Field Chapel in Wachendorf, Eifel, Germany (Interior)

Interior of the Brother Klaus Field Chapel by Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor, Architect Interior of the Brother Klaus Field Chapel by Peter Zumthor. Photo © Pietro Savorelli, courtesy Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor discusses his unique design for the interior space at the Brother Klaus Field Chapel in Germany.

"The interior of the chapel room was formed out of 112 tree trunks, which were configured like a tent. In twentyfour working days, layer after layer of concrete, each layer 50 cm thick, was poured and rammed around the tentlike structure.

"In the autumn of 2006, a special smouldering fire was kept burning for three weeks inside the log tent, after which time the tree trunks were dry and could easily be removed from the concrete shell.

"The chapel floor was covered with lead, which was melted on site in a crucible and manually ladled onto the floor. The bronze relief figure in the chapel is by sculptor Hans Josephsohn."

~Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Prize Laureate

See the exterior of the Brother Klaus Field Chapel