Architect Peter Zumthor from Basel, Switzerland, received the Pritzker-Price, the highest accolade an architect can get. Zumthor’s modern buildings made from traditional materials and with ancient crafts have made him a household name for outstanding architecture in building sites in difficult surroundings.
Peter Zumthor started out as a carpenter, but immediately after passing the exams (just barely, as he said himself once) he started studies on design and interior design at the College for Arts and Crafts in Basel. He followed these up by studying Industrial Design and Architecture at the Pratt Institute in New York. Returning to Switzerland he was hired by the Republic and Canton of Grisons to look after its architectural heritage.
This job involved a lot of research into ancient arts and crafts as well as materials and gave him the impetus to continue working with the same diligence our forebears had applied to their buildings. Combining tradition with modern design, he became the architect elect for buildings in extraordinary locations, such as the thermal baths in Vals, Switzerland, the Caplutta Sogn Benedetg in Sumvitg, Switzerland, and the field chapel in Wachendorf, Germany.
But his buildings got integrated into major towns and cities just as well. The Art Museum in Bregenz, Austria, and the Kolumba Art Museum of the Diocese of Cologne, Germany, are reckoned amongst the most important modern buildings in Europe. In the Kolumba, the architect integrated the remains of historical buildings underground in the total concept of the museum, while in the museum in Bregenz he toned down architectural expression to a plain cubism giving priority to the art exhibited.
Zumthor’s biography reads like the palmares of prizes you might aspire to as an architect; he received the Heinrich Tessenow Medal from the University of Hannover, the Prize for Stone Architecture in Verona, the Erich Schelling Architectural Prize, the Carlsberg Architectural Prize, the Meret Oppenheim Prize, the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture, the Praemium Imperiale (an arts prize set out by the Emperor of Japan for the arts not eligible to the Nobel Prize for Literature); and all these prices go just as examples for many more.
In Berlin, his plans for the ‘Topography of Terror’ memorial won first place; Berlin later cited cost reasons for not building it.
What makes the award to Peter Zumthor even more extraordinary is the fact that he is the second Swiss architect in 30 years to receive this honour after Herzog and de Meuron received it as a team in 2001. All three architects are from the city of Basel, and for a small town like Basel with its 180,000 inhabitants, this further recognition of its exceptional cultural position is unique.
Graffiti in the Church
Iconic Swiss Design