Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It's Architecture's Big Prize. And this year, the winner was someone whose name doesn't necessarily ring a bell. Unless you're an archi-nerd of some variety.

Photo © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
via Arcspace

The choice of Peter Zumthor isn't surprising, if you've seen his work. Pictures take your breath away. Well, they did for me. The first time I saw his work, way back when I was a freshmen, was revelatory. A shot of his thermal baths in Vals, Switzerland, it captured a sense of gravity, permanence, solitude. I connected with the image instinctively. I wanted to be in that photo, submerged in that still pool, lost to the world.

That gutteral response to his work was something I'd never had before. It was the response I hoped one day someone might have upon seeing my own work. So far, no luck.

Maybe it's just me, but the jury's choice seems, in particular, to reflect the current state of our profession. The flash and bang of other winners would seem a bit extravagent given the tough times we currently face. The values of craft, materials, space rise back to the forefront.

Greatness is part talent, part luck, and part timing. Making my way through school, I found myself drawn more and more to those professors who emphasized the things that Zumthor's work so effortlessly exudes. But, as I noted before, the things I had come to admire, sought to incorporate into my own work, made me a relic amongst my peers. Apparently, my timing was a bit off.

Now, as I worry about the next step, which approaches more quickly than I care to think about, I can't help but wonder, will my timing will always be a bit off?


Anonymous Spyros Kaprinis said...

Dear colleague D.,

What I believe to be really "architectural" in the great Peter Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals is the fact that the "primal act of bathing organizes the building".Now, here you have it: the idea as a generator of "raum", of essential space...plus the immaculate use of materials, plus the architect's "final touch"! In the age of "architects-hairdressers" - as your beloved Neil Spiller would say - I think it is very timely for an architect to be..."a bit off"!

Keep the faith...we need it!

Spyros K.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Kitty said...

Peter Zumthor definitely rings a bell for me. I'm a student at Rice, and my profs have slapped us in the face with his name, among many others of course, for years. Guess I'm an archi-nerd :)

Also, Gensler is the true archi-hell. Shit, I was glad when they laid my ass off.

12:57 AM  

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