PETER ZUMTHOR – THINKING ARCHITECTURE 

 

Peter Zumthor was born in Basel (1943) and graduated architecture from Pratt Institute in New York. In 1979 he established his own practice and has been based in Haldenstein in Switzerland since. The architect often asks himself: ‘What does this house want to become, as an object of use, as a physical body, its materials firmly constructed and joined, its shape molded into a form that serves life?’ What about the book? Is it a kind of diary or at least personal notebook? Zumthor says that architecture is between following a path and discovering a path of your own. I would say something similar about this text – we follow the architect’s reflections, to start thinking about architecture in our own way at some point. We can use it as a springboard to explore our perceptual skills. It isn’t by chance that the book starts with a chapter called ‘A Way of Looking at Things’. 

‘Thinking Architecture’ is not a set of principles but a very poetic and personal story about the relationship between a great architect and architecture as well as about all aspects of the later one. It’s very complex, full of nuisances that Zumthor is perfectly aware of. He lets us in his studio, in his head, gives us a sneak peek of architectural practice, insight into the process that results in a space to live, work, function. Isn’t it exciting? How to bring out the meanings of materials? How to make a meaningful whole of many parts? How difficult it is to finish constructing and drawings? How challenging to meet all functional and technical requirements? How to look for inspirations among books, poems, movies, travels, landscapes, other buildings? How to look at a building simultaneously from different angles: historically, aesthetically, functionally, personally? How to find your own answers and solutions, over and over again? It’s fascinating to learn how Zumthor experiences architecture and makes his inner visions real or what strikes a chord in the architect and how sometimes his projects escape to start living their own life, evolving independently. The story is told with passion and affection, doesn't lack brilliant references to various books, poems, music or movies. The architect’s approach is poetic (particularly in the chapter about the light in the landscape) and very rational in the same time: ‘I do not think of it primarily as either a message or a symbol, but as an envelope and background for life which goes on in and around it, a sensitive container for the rhythm of footsteps on the floor, for the concentration of work, for the silence of sleep.’ 

I enjoyed immersing into Zumthor’s story on architecture. The way he shares his subtle thoughts, his fairness and ability to speak about essence of things in a very clear but illuminating way. Each reflection is revealing and formed of experience, the architect opens our eyes in numerous cases and shows how to pay attention to architecture and its all components (as it consists of buildings, materials, landscapes, emotions, memories etc.). Can we enter into a real dialogue with our surroundings? The author holds animated conversation with every aspect of it. Let’s follow his story to find our own way to perceive it.