Peter Zumthor, Designs With No Spotlights

b. 1943

Peter Zumthor at a 2014 event in Beverly Hills, California
Peter Zumthor at a 2014 event in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for MAK Center for Art and Architecture/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

The year Peter Zumthor was awarded the Pritzker Prize, architecture critic Paul Goldberger called Zumthor "a great creative force who deserves to be better known outside the world of architecture." Although well-known in architecture circles—Zumthor was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal four years after the Pritzker—his quiet demeanor has kept him from the starchitecture world, and that may be all right with him.


Born: April 26, 1943 in Basel, Switzerland


  • 1958-1962: Trained as a cabinet maker
  • 1963-1967: Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland and the Pratt Institute in New York City, USA.

Selected Buildings:

  • 1986: Protective Housing for Roman Archeological Excavations, Chur, Switzerland
  • 1988: Saint Benedict Chapel, Graubünden, Switzerland
  • 1990: Art Museum, Chur, Switzerland
  • 1993: Homes for Senior Citizens, Chur, Switzerland
  • 1996: Thermal Baths Vals, Vals, Switzerland
  • 1997: Kunsthaus (Art Museum), Bregenz, Austria
  • 2000: Swiss Pavilion, Expo 2000, Hannover, Germany
  • 2001-2004: Harjunkulma Apartment Building, Jyväskylä, Finland
  • 2002: Luzi House, Jenaz, Graubünden Switzerland
  • 2007:Saint Bruder Klaus Field Chapel, Mechernich, Germany
  • 2007: Art Museum Kolumba, Cologne, Germany
  • 2011: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, Kensington Gardens, London, UK
  • 2011: Steilneset Memorial, Memorial Site to the Burning of Witches, Finnmark, Vardø, Norway

    Selected Awards:

    • 1995: International Prize for Stone Architecture, Fiera di Verona, Italy
    • 1995: Internationaler Architekturpreis für Neues Bauen in den Alpen, Graubünden, Switzerland
    • 1996: Erich-Schelling-Preis für Architektur, Erich-Schelling-Stiftung, Germany
    • 1999: Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture, for the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Barcelona, Spain
    • 2006: Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award
    • 2008: Praemium Imperiale, Japan Arts Association
    • 2009: Pritzker Architecture Prize
    • 2013: Royal Gold Medal, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)


    • "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."
      Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor
      Buy on Amazon
    • "If architecture education does not focus on constructing, it becomes irrelevant for the building industry.....Select your school carefully. Select your professors carefully. Try and go to a place where architecture is taught as a whole thing – not only as a theory, but also as a way of living."
      Interview with Royal Gold Medallist Peter Zumthor by James Pallister, Architects Journal, EMAP Publishing Limited, February 5, 2013 [accessed March 30, 2014]
    • "There is something bigger in the world than you are."
      Merin, Gili. "Peter Zumthor: Seven Personal Observations on Presence In Architecture" 03 Dec 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 Mar 2014.

    About Peter Zumthor:

    "His work combines Louis Kahn's mystical, quiet power with an almost Japanese restraint, and he exhibits a bit of Mies van der Rohe's extraordinary discipline as well. I’ve never thought of Kahn and Mies as having much in common, but Zumthor is the spiritual child of both. His work is brooding in the manner of Kahn, and pristine in the manner of Mies."—Paul Goldberger, 2009

    The son of a cabinet maker, Peter Zumthor is often praised for the detailed craftsmanship of his designs. Zumthor works with a range of materials, from cedar shingles to sandblasted glass, to create inviting textures. "I work a little bit like a sculptor,” Zumthor told the New York Times. "When I start, my first idea for a building is with the material. I believe architecture is about that. It's not about paper, it's not about forms. It's about space and material." (Full story)

    Peter Zumthor lives quietly in the remote village of Haldenstein in the Swiss mountains. His buildings are found mainly in Europe.

    Source: "Peter Zumthor’s Quiet Power" by Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, April 14, 2009 [accessed November 24, 2014]