Peter Zumthor has been named the architect for the 2010 Serpentine Pavilion in London, having just won the Pritzker Prize in 2009 and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale in 2008. I was reminded of his work recently during a discussion about who’d be chosen to build the new Vancouver Art Gallery (which is becoming a perennial topic around here), and a friend said Zumthor was his favourite architect. It’s unlikely anyone could convince Zumthor to build our gallery, not to mention that the city can’t afford him. But my very conceptual art friend said, to my surprise, “I’m sorry, but a gallery should be a temple,” and it’s true that everything Zumthor touches becomes a place of pilgrimage. Zumthor arrives at this almost devotional or poetic place, though, through practical concerns of utility and function. He’s Swiss.
“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.”
Via archdaily and Architects Journal. Top, Bruder Klaus Chapel, photos from Siong Chin. Next, Therme Vals, Zumthor’s famous public thermal baths. Below, the museum at Kolumba. Bottom, Saint Benedict Chapel, Sumvitg, Switzerland. As usual, despite being the most irreligious non-believer, I’m drawn to church architecture, probably for its communal purpose and its poetry.