[ Peter Zumthor ] Key projects


Here’s a selection of projects by architect Peter Zumthor, who wasnamed 2009 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate earlier this week (see our previous story).


Captions are from Peter Zumthor. Above photo by Walter Mair.


Above: Brother Klaus Field Chapel, 2007
Wachendorf, Eifel, Germany

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


The interior of the chapel room was formed out of 112 tree trunks,which were configured like a tent. In twenty-four working days, layerafter layer of concrete, each layer 50 cm thick, was poured and rammedaround the tent-like structure.


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


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


Above and below: Kolumba Art Museum of the Cologne Archdiocese, 2007
Cologne, Germany

The Art Museum of the Cologne Archdiocese was to be a “livingmuseum”. It shows objects from its own permanent collection rangingfrom late antiquity to the present: Romanesque sculptures,installations, medieval paintings, “radical paintings”, gothic ciboriaand 20th-century objects of daily use are presented in changingjuxtapositions. Photos by Helene Binet.


The new building in the city centre rises from the ruins of the late gothic Saint Kolumba Church, destroyed in World War II.


Its ground floor contains a large archaeological excavation site withthe remains of previous church buildings which date back 7th century,and the chapel “Madonna in den Trümmern” (Madonna among the Ruins)built by Gottfried Böhm in 1949/50.


These givens led to a building that provides seventeen galleries ofdifferent proportions and with different lighting on three floors with atotal floor space of 1,750 square meters.


Below: Swiss Sound Box, Swiss Pavilion, Expo 2000
Hanover, Germany

We called the Swiss Pavilion for the 2000 Hanover Expo “Klangkörper Schweiz”.


Instead  of showing theoretical or virtual information to promoteSwitzerland, our basic idea was to offer  something concrete to Expovisitors, who would be tired from studying all the messages in theother  national pavilions: a welcoming place to rest, a place to justbe, a place offering a tasty little something from Switzerland forthirsty or peckish visitors, and live music “unplugged”, moving andchanging  throughout the space, a relaxed atmosphere as well asbeautifully dressed attendants. Above and below photos by Walter Mair.


Photos  below this page by
Thomas Flechtner

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 eamsand with a light hand: all this was designed to merge with thearchitecture, a spatial structure of wooden beams.


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


Above: Luzi House Jenaz, 2002
Graubünden, Switzerland

Private residence with a separate granny flat or a “Stoeckli” as itis called in Switzerland.  Clients: a local couple with six smallchildren in the centre of Jenaz. Below photos by Walter Mair.


“A spacious, expansive house with light-filled rooms, everythingconstructed of solid wood;  a further development of the blockhousestypical of this village, without any extra frills, with large windowsand large balconies full of flowers” – as the couple specified in thebrief.


Below: Spittelhof Estate, 1996
Biel-Benken, Baselland

The town of Biel-Benken near the Alsace border is a desirableresidential area near Basel. People work in the city and live in thecountry, in a house with a garden.  Photos by Helene Binet.


Building a small residential estate here, in a prime location at theupper edge of the village and below the historic Spittelhof farm,required special permission from the village council.

The semi-private Basellandschaftliche Beamtenversi-cherungskasse (anorganisation that insures civil servants) acted as developer/investor;their brief called for rental flats and terraced houses at a ratio ofroughly 1:1. We built two rows of terraced housing with gardens on thesouth side and a building with rental units (which at the time wecalled “Kulm”/ Summit ) at the upper edge of the central greencourtyard.


The bedrooms face east towards the nearby forest, while the livingrooms have a wide view to the west and the hills of the Sundgauregion.  The “Kulm” contains five ground-floor flats for elderly peopleand on the two upper floors ten lats of different sizes, all withseparate access stairs and entrances from the canopied forecourt on theeast side. The floor plans of all three buildings were designed toprovide light-filled living rooms and bedrooms lined up – porch-like –along the facades.


Above and below: Kunsthaus Bregenz, Vorarlberger Landesgalerie - Museum and Administration Buildings, 1997
Bregenz, Austria

The competition brief of 1989 called for a conventional provincialgallery. Step by step, the special format of the house as a Kunsthalleevolved into a four-storey building. Administration, café and museumshop were relocated to a separate structure in front of the museumproper.   Photos by Helene Binet


Initially we planned to direct daylight into the building throughobliquely placed facade slats. Tested on models, this solution provedunsatisfactory. The best results were obtained by using etched glassshingles that refract the light before it enters the building.


No matter what direction the light is coming from, it is alwaystransmitted horizontally into the interior. Therefore, we placed acavity above every floor to catch the light coming in from all foursides.


And now, once again, we exploited the ability of the etched glass todiffuse the light; it strikes the glass ceiling and is deflected downinto each exhibition gallery. To encourage a special form ofconcentration on the four stacked exhibition floors, the building wasdesigned without windows. And yet daylight is everywhere.


ermal Bath Vals
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 alarger new building with integrated thermal baths and new guest roomsproved too costly, the authorities opted for the thermal baths as afirst step. Photos by Helene Binet.


We were told it should be something special, unique. It should fit inwith Vals and attract new guests. In 1991 the project was presented ata village meeting with a water-filled stone model. Construction startedin 1994, and the thermal baths were opened in 1996. Since then, over40,000 people have visited them every year. Since completion, theovernight stays in the village and in the Hotel Therme have increasedby about 45 per cent.


The load-bearing composite structure of the baths consists of solidwalls of concrete and thin slabs of Vals gneiss broken and cut to sizein the quarry just behind the village.


The thermal water which comes from the mountain just behind the baths has a temperature of 30°C.


Below: Truog House (extension and renovation), 1994
Gugalun, Versam
Graubünden, Switzerland

Relatives of the present owner lived in and ran the small Gugalunfarm in Arezen at the entrance to the Safien Valley. The small manorhouse looks north, facing the moon (luna), as the name of the estateindicates.  Photos by Helene Binet.


To make the simple wooden house habitable in future, an extensionwas built. It contains a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and a modernhypocaust heating system.  To create the space for the annex, the late19th-century kitchen at the back of the house, on the side of themountain slope, was demolished, while the entire 17th-centuryliving-room section was preserved. A new roof connects the old and thenew.


Below:  Homes for Senior Citizens, 1993
Chur, Masans,
Graubünden, Switzerland

The twenty-two flats of the residential development for the elderlyin Masans near Chur are occupied by senior citizens still able to runtheir own households, but happy to use the services offered by thenursing 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 thetraditional building materials used here – tuff, larch, pine, maple,solid wood flooring and wooden panelling. Photos by Helene Binet.


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


Below: Saint Benedict Chapel, 1988
Graubünden, Switzerland

In 1984 an avalanche destroyed the baroque chapel in front of thevillage of Sogn Benedetg (St. Benedict). A recently built parking lothad acted like a ramp pushing the snow from the avalanche up againstthe chapel. Photo by Helene Binet.


The new site on the original path to the Alp above the small villageis protected from avalanches by a forest. The new wooden chapel, facedwith 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 ofthe Disentis Monastery and the then village priest Bearth wanted tobuild something new and contemporary for future generations.


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

In the 4th century AD, Chur was the Roman capital of the province ofCuria – hence the name “Chur”. The Romans inhabited the area now calledthe “Welschdörfli” (French-speaking Swiss village), Chur’s smallamusement strip just off the historic town centre, where, it is said,people still spoke “Churerwelsch” though the people in town werealready speaking German. Photos by Helene Binet.


Archaeological excavations in this area have uncovered a completeRoman quarter. The protective structures – wind-permeable woodenenclosures – follow the outer walls of three adjacent Roman buildings(only a small part of one of these was excavated). The site’s displaycases along the street skirt the protruding foundations of the formerhouse entrances.


A wall painting was found lying on the floor of the larger building.Restored and returned to its original position, it gives an impressionof the probable height of the single-storey houses. The charred remainsof a wooden floor at the back of the larger building are from Romantimes.


Above and below: Zumthor Studio , 1986
Haldenstein, Graubünden

In the early 1980s we were able to buy an old farmhouse with someland right next to the farmhouse in the Süsswinkel in Haldenstein whichwe had converted in 1971 into our family home. Unfortunately the newlyacquired house received very little sunlight, having been built ontothe north side of a neighbouring house. We drew up many conversionplans in order to lure the sun into the house, without much success.Photos by Helene Binet


Finally we decided to take the leap: we pulled down the old houseand replaced it with a new studio house and garden.  The new woodenbuilding – a reference to the barns, stables and workshops in thevillage, and a salute to the few fellow architects in the Vorarlbergregion who had begun building good new houses of wood – now occupiesthe northern, and the garden the southern section of the site, as isproper. The studio contains two south-facing rooms: the upper one forworking, the ground-floor one with a fireplace, a view of the garden anda small kitchen for entertaining.


For a long time a concert piano stood there under a wall painting byMatias Spescha and, in front of the fireplace, a group of easy chairswith the sofa that Alvar Aalto designed for Wohnbedarf in Zurich. Todaythe room is used as a drawing studio.

from  dezeen

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