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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Venkova

Architecture Diaries-Peter Zumthor

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

"Architecture is always faced with the challenge of developing a whole out of innumerable details, out of various functions and forms, materials and dimensions. The architect must look for rational constructions and forms, for edges and joints, for the points where surfaces intersect and different materials meet. These formal details determine the sensation/sensitive transition within the larger proportions of the building. The details establish the formal rhythm, the building's finely fractioned scale. Details express where the basic idea of the design requires at the relevant point in the object: belonging or separation, tension or lightness, friction, solidity, fragility..."

Who is Peter Zumthor? For me a breath of air. Fresh, Air. His work is freedom, it gives space. Space for creating, space for achieving, space for being and space for living. Living in the sense of enjoying what surrounds you, and really experiencing what surrounds you with all your senses, with the whole of yourself.

This is how I've learned to appreciate architecture. It's the space between the spaces. The negative space, perhaps. The floating, the movement without even moving. I don't remember how I stumbled upon Zumthor's work. It must have been my course director or one of my very close friends Viki. The book they recommended was 'Atmospheres'. Atmosphere. It is what got me and what really made me rethink design and architecture, and uncovered what I really strived to create.

I want to create independent spaces for 'being'. Not just beautiful spaces, pleasant spaces, but spaces that really bring emotion, make one feel, think, re-think, analyse and question. And this is why I find Peter Zumthor's work so inspirational. Because this is indeed his philosophy.

The Therme Vals, representing exactly the movement, the constant flow of people... The fade from one space to another, the exploration, the kind of 'becoming part' of the building. The Klaus Field Chapel, another favourite of mine-connection to the materials, to the land where these materials come from. The fact that these 'goods' are primordially part of the built space, its flesh, not only tells the story of the actual surroundings, but it makes the architecture itself blend into the scenery and become part of it. This doesn't mean it would get lost, but on the contrary it would compliment and it would feel as it was always there. It was always meant to be. They do belong together. Once again a building that makes sense, a building that has a reason, that explains why it's there. And once more makes one question, makes one wonder, explore and discover.

I haven't had a chance to visit these building. I have obviously read about them, looked at videos and pictures. But even looking from a distance, these creations do represent exactly what they are supposed to represent. And proudly, I understand them, and I do feel them very close. And they make me fall in love with architecture over and over again...

St Benedict Chapel @Felipe Camus

"What was the room like?

What did it really look like?

What smell was in the air?

What did my footsteps sound like in it? And my voice?

How did the floor feel under my feet, the door handle in my hand?

How did the light strike the facades?

What was the shine on the wall like?

Was there a feeling of narrowness or width, or intimacy or vastness?"

Zinc Mine Museum @Aldo Amoretti

"I carefully observe the concrete appearance of the world, and in my buildings I try to enhance what seems to be valuable, to correct what is disturbing, and to create a new what we feel is missing."

"... when I build something in the landscape, it is important to me to make sure my building materials match the landscape... Material and construction have to relate to the place and sometimes even come from it... Buildings in the landscape have to be able to age beautifully."

Devon Countrysde Villa @Jack Hobhouse

"The meander as we call it is designed negative space that connects everything as it flows throughout the entire building, creating a peacefully pulsating rhythm. Moving around this space means making discoveries. You are walking as if in the woods. Everyone there is looking for a path of their own."

Therme Vals © Fernando Guerra

"In order to design buildings with a sensuous connection to life, one must think in a way that goes far beyond form and construction."

Bruder Klaus Field Chapel © Samuel Ludwig

"Architecture is not about form."


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