Peter Zumthor

Thinking Architecture
A way of looking at things 9
The hard core of beauty 27
From passion for things to the things themselves 35
The body of architecture 48
Teaching architecture, learning architecture 57

A way of looking at things
In search of the lost architecture
Whf'1l Ithink ahout arl'liit c(' IUrC, i r n a g c ~ rome into Ill y mind. Many
of these images arc conncclPd with III )' training and work as an
architect. Tilt,), contain Ihe professional knowledge about afchilec-
tUff' that I have gat he red uver the ),f'ars. SOlli e of th e other images
have Lo do with mychildhood. Thcff' was il time when I ex perienced
a rchitecture \\ ithout thinking about it. Sometimes I ca n a lmost fecI
a parti c ular door hand le in my ha nd, a pi ece o f metal shaped like
the bac k of a spoon.
I used to ta ke hold of it when I went into my aunt 's ga rd e n. That
door ha ndl e still seems to me like a speci al sign or e ntry into a
world of diffe re nt moods and smell s. I re member t he sound of the
gravel under my feel , the soft glea m of th e waxed oak sta ircase,
I ca n hea r the heavy front door dosing b(' hind me "IS I walk along
the dark corridor and Cllt('r the kit c he n, the only rea ll y brightly
lit room in the house.
Looking back, it sec ms as if thi s was the o nl y room in the house
in whi c h the ef'i ling did not di sa ppear into twili ght j the small
hexago na l tiles of thc Il oor, dark red and lilted so tightly together
that th e c racks bel\\('ell them \\ ere almost imperccptilJle, were
ha rd and unyielding und e r my feet , a nd a smell of oil IHlint issued
from th e kitchen c UI}boa rd .
Everyt hing a hout thi s kitc he n was typi ca l of a traditional
kitch e n. There was nothing SI}ccial about it. But pe rhal)s it was just
the fact that it was so v('ry much, 50 vcry mlt urall y, a kit che n th at
has imprintl'd its ml'lIlory indelibl y on Ill y mind. The atmosphere of
thi s room is insolubl y li nkf'd with my i<ka of a kitchf'n.
'10\\ I feel like gOing on and talking ahout tht' door hand les
", hil ·h ('a me after th e on m) aunt"s gardf' n gate, about tht'
grou nd a nd fl oors. ahout the so ft :.l::o ph alt \\;.lrlllt,tl b) th e slIn.
about 111(' paving StOIH' S ('oHred \\ith dlf'stllut It'aHs in tht,
autUlI1n , and a hout all thi' doors \\ilich dosed in t- ll ch ditTer('nt
\\i.I) S, 0 1H' rq)If'It, ;'lIl tl dignifit'fl. "ith a t hin, dlt';]ll dall er.
others hard. inqli;.lI..:a hle and intimidating .
\l rlllories lik(, th ese cont ain the deqwst architectural
that I knm\. TIlt' ) are tilt' rcsl'rvoir" of t he are hit t' clll ral atmos-
ph ere" and imagt's that I f'xplorc in my \\ or k as a n a rc hit (,ct.
WIH'n I d esign a building, t frequently find myst' lf sinking into
o ld , half-forgotH'n mf'mOrl {'s. a nd tllf'n I trv to r{'('olled \dlat
the re me mbe rc(1 ;Hchitectural situati on was rea ll y like, what it
had mea nt to IIH' il t th e time, and I try to think how it could he lp
me 110\\ to re\ iH' that vibrant a tmosphere pe rvad ed b) the simpl e
pres(, lH'e of things, in which e \ c rything had it s OWII spf'c ifi c pi<u.: e
a nd fo rm. And a ltho ugh I ca nnot trace any specia l for ms. there is a
hint of fullness and of ridln{' ss \\ hi c h makf's me think: t hi s I h<lvc
seell hefo rc. Yet, at the salll{' time. I know that il is all new a nd
diffe re nt , and that Ih ere is no direcI reference to i.l formf' r work
of ' lr(· hit t'cl ure "hif'h mi ght Ihe secre t of tlH' memory-
lade II 1I1 00d.
Made of materials
' Ib lII e. there is so met hing revea ling ahout th e \\ork of Joseph
BCll) s and some of the artis ts of t1w ;\rle PO\ {'fl.l group. \\ hat
impress{'s lIl e is the preciS(' alld Sf' Il SUOUS way tlr ey Ufle matf'ri-
a ls. It secllls a n(' hol"(' d in ;.In aIH.: ielll , (' If' mc ntal kllo,d('dgf' ahout
man's Ul)(' o f ma teria ls, a nd al the sa nw time to (" pos(' l hf' \f'ry
esse lHT o f tllf' Sf' matc rial s \\hit"h is hf'),o nd a ll cultu rl.l ll y COll v(' ycd
Ill eaning.
I try to like in Ill) \\Ork. Ilw li ne ('a n
a.:iSIIIlI{' a p,wti c qualit y in the l'onlt" t o f an architf'ctural ohj('ct,
although if the areilit f'(, t is ahl .., to generat!' a llH'ani ngfll l situ-
a t ion fo r tlWIII . since rnatt'rials in Iht' 1II 5e " e5 art' not pOl' ti (·.
The S(, Il Sf' th at I tr) to instill inl o malerial s is hryond all 1"1I1t.'5 of
(·o mposit ion. a nd th ei r tl.ln:.6bilit ), i-o llldl a nd acollstic qua liti('.s a r('
IlI r rpl ) eirlllt'nt s of tilt' that arf' obli gNlto U M'. Se nsc
l' lIl erges "" he ll I slIct."t't.,d in bringin l; oul Ih c spl'cifi c Illea nings of
('trtai n materi als in buildings. lIl ea nings that c<I n on l" be
pelw' ived ill just Ihi s "a) in this one huilding.
If we work towa rds thi s goa l, lIlust {"onst a nli y ask oursel "cs
\\ hat the lI Sf' of a parti c uhlr mat e ri a l ('ould nwa n in a specifij ' archi-
tc(' tural CO llt t'XI. Good a nswe rs to tli {'sC qllf' stion5 ('a n thrO\\ nc"
li ght onto hoth Ilw way ill which 1I1 f' mater ial is gelH'rall y lIs('d and
its OWIl inlwrt' nt senSllOUs qualiti t's.
If we sU(,(,f'(' d in this. ma te rial s in a rchitecture ca n be made to
shinf' and vihrat e,
Work within things
It is sa id th at o ne of th e most things about the music of
Jo l1<ll1n Se bastian Bach is it s "an..: hit f'(' ture." Ib construction s('elll S
d ear and tran spar(' nt. It is Ilossiblf' to pu rs ue thf' detai ls o f th e
llI e lodi c, har mon ic and \\ithout lo"i ng th e
f(,el ing for the compositi o n as a whole - thf' "holt' which ma kes
Sf'nse of th(' detai ls. The music SI't'IlI S to 1)(' has{'d upo n .a dear
struct ure. and if \\ e trace the indi\ idual Ihn' ads of th e musica l
fabri c it is possi bl e to apprehend th e rul es tha t th e stnlt' turt'
of Ih (' mu sic.
Co nstnl {, tion is th(' art of making;J mt.'a ningfl.l l \\ hol e ou t of lIIall )
pari s. Buildings art' wit ll esses to tilt' larrn a n ahilit)' to ('ons truct
("O IH"rf' tf' things. I hf' li ('\(' tha t th e ft'al core uf all architectural
\\ork li cs in til(' ad o f t"onl) truct io n. At t he poillt in tim(' \\ hcl1 ("on-
ercLe mat e ri als are assembl ed and erected, the ar(' hiH' cturf> wc
have bee n loo king for becomcs I)art of th e rea l world.
I feci res pc!,; l for th e art of joi ning, the ability of craftsmcn and
cngin ('('rs. I Hm imp ressed by the knowledge of ho\\ to make th ings,
which li es Ht th e boltom of huma n skill. I try to design buildings
that a rC' \\orlhy of thi s kno\\ ledge and me rit the cha ll enge to thi s
Peopl C' often S,lY, "A lot of work went into thi s" when th ey sense
til{' ('a r(' and skill that it s maker has lavi shed on a carefull y ('on-
structf'd obj(,(·t. The notion that our work is an int egral part of
what we a('eomplish tak es li S to the very limit s of our musings
about the va lu c of a work of art, a work of architecture. Are the
effort and skill w(' put into the m rea ll y inh erent part s of the things
we make? Sometimes, when I am moved by a wo rk of architecture
in th e same way as I am moved by music. lit e rature or i1 I)ainting.
I am te mpt ed to think so.
For the silence of sleep
I love music. The slow moveme nts of the Moza rt piano concert os,
John Co ltrlJne's ball ads, or th e sound of the human voice in ce rtain
songs all move me.
The human ability to invent me lodies, harmoni cs, and rhythms
amazes me.
But til(' world of sound also embraces th e opposite of melody,
har mo ny, and rhythm. There is di shar mony and broken rhyt hm,
fragment s and clusters of sound, a nd there is also the purely func-
t ional sound th:1 t we c<l 1I noise. Contemporary music ,\orks with
these ele ments.
Contempo rary architect ure should be just as r.adi f'a l .as conte m-
porary 11111 sic. But there arc limits. Although a work of <l rt·hit ectur('
hased o n tli s harmony a nd fragmentation, o n broke n rhythms, clus-
tering and structural di sruptions may he ahle to convey a
tiS soon as we understand it s statell1('nt o ur curiosit y di es. a nd all
th at is left is tlit· qu esti on of til(" buildi ng's practi ca l usefuln ess.
Architecture has it s 0\\11 realm. It has a s pecia l phys ica l re lati o n-
ship with li fe. I do not think of it Ilrimaril y as (,it her a message o r a
symbol, but as an ('me-lope a nd b.wkground fo r li fe which goes on
in and around it. a sensit ive ('o ntaill(" r for til{' rhythm of footsteps
o n the floor, for th e conce ntrat io n of work. fo r th e silence of slee p.
Preliminary promises
In it s final , constructed form, architecture has it s place in th e co n-
crete world. Thi s is where it exists. Thi s is where it makes its stat e-
ment. Portraya ls of as yet unrea li zed iHchit ectural works represe nt
an attempt to give a voice to sOIll("thing which has not yet found it s
pl ace in th e concrete world for whi ch it is meant. Architectural
drawings try to ex press as accurate ly as I)ossiblc the aura of the
building in it s int ended 1)laec. But precisely the effort of the I)or-
lrayal oft e n serves to unde rline the ahse nce of the actual object.
and what then e me rges is a n awareness of t. he in adequacy of a ny
kind of portrayal, curiosit y a bout the reality it I}rorni scs, and
pe rhaps - if the promi se has th e powe r to move us - a longing for
it s presence.
If the naturali sm and graphic virtuosity of architectural portray-
a ls arc too great , if th ey lack "opell l)atehes" where our imagination
a nd curiosity a bout the rea lit y of the drawing l'an pe net rat e th e
image, th e IlOrtraya l it self becollH' s th e obj ect of our desire, and our
longing for the rea lit y wanes heca use th ere is little or nothing in
the represe ntation that point s to the int e nded reality beyo nd it. The
port raYlJ1 no longer holds a pro mi se. It refers o nl y to itself.
Design drawings th at refe r to a reality whi ch still li es In the
future are illlpq,rtant in Ill y work . I cont inue workingon my drawings
until they reach the deli (,ate point of represe ntation when th e pre-
vai ling mood I seek eme rges, and I stop befo re in essenti a ls start
dClral'ling from it s impal.:t. The drawing it s('lf 1II11sttakf'o n til{' qual-
it y of th e sought-for o bj ed. It is like a sl... elch hy a sculptor for hi s
sculpture. not me rel y an illustration of an id f'a hut an inn ate part of
the work of crea tion , whi c h {' nds with th e co nstruded obj ed.
These sort of drawings f' nahlf' us to step baL:k, to look, and to
lea rn to unde rstand that whidl has not yet COlTl t' into bt' ing and
which has just started to f'mf'rgf'.
Chinks in sealed objects
Buildings are artificial eonstruct ions. They consist of singl e I)arts
which must he joined together. To a large degree, th e quality of th e
fini shed obj ect is det ermined by th e quality of the joins.
In sculpture, there is a traditi o n whil.:h minimi ses th e ex prf'ss ion
of the joints and joins betwee n the singl e part s in favour of th{'
overall form. Richard Serra's steel o bj ects, for exa mpl e, look just as
homogenous and integral as the stone and wood sculptures of the
older sculptural traditions. Mall), of thc installations and objects
by arti sts of the 1960s and 70s ft>l)' on th c simplf' st and most obvi-
ous met hods of joining and connccting that we know. Beuys, fi,'l en-:
and others oftcn uscd loosc s(,ttings in space, coil s, folds and laye rs
wh e n deve loping a whole from th e individual parts.
The dircct , sce mingly self-evident way in whi ch these objects are
put together is inte resting. Thf're is no intf'rruption of th e overall
imprf'ssion by small part s whi ch have nothing to do with th e
object's statement. Qur perCf'ption of the whole is not di straet cd
by inessential deta il s. Every touch, every join, eve ry joint is there in
order to reinforce the idea of th e quiet prese nce of th e work.
Wh en I design buildings, I try to give th em thi s kind of presence.
Howcver, unlike the sculptor, I have to start with fun ctional and
techni ca l requirements that represc nt th e fundaJlJ enta l tas k I ha\'('
to fulfill. Archit eet ure is always faced with th e chall enge of ri evf' l-
oping a whol(' o ut of innumerabl e detail s, oul of var ious fun ctio ns
and forms, mate rial s and dime nsions. The architect must look for
rational constructions and forms for edges and joints, for the points
where surfaces int ersect and diffe ren t material s meet. These rormal
detail s det ermine th e sensitive transitions within th e larger propor-
tions of th e building. Thf' detail s establi sh the rormal rhythm, th e
building's rinely fra ctionated scale.
Detail s express what the basic idea of the design requires at th e
relevant point in th e obj ect: helonging or se paration, tension or
lightness, friction , solidit y, fragility.
Detail s, when th ey are successrul , are not me re decoration. They
do nol di st ract or entertain. They lead to an understanding of the
whole of which th ey are an inherent part.
There is a magical power in eve ry compl eted, self-conta in ed
creation. It is as ir we succumb to th e magic of the full y deve loped
architectural body. Our att ent ion is caught, perhaps for the first
time, by a det ail such as two nail s in the floor that hold th e steel
plates by the worn-out doorstcp. Emotions well up. Something
moves us.
Beyond the symbols
"Anylhing goes," say the doers. " Mainstreet is almost all right ," says
Venturi , the architect. '"'"Nothing works any more," say those who
suffer from the hostility of our day and age. These stat ement s stand
for contradi ctory opinions, if not for contradi ctory racts. \lie get
used to living with co ntradi ctions and th ere arc several reasons
for thi s: traditions crumble, and with them cultural identiti es.
No one seems reall y to understand and control th e dynami cs devel-
oped by economi cs and politi cs. Everything merges into cverything
else, and mass co mmuni ca tion creates an a rtifi cial world of signs.
Arbitrariness prevail s.
Post modern life could Iw df' seribed as a state in \\ hi ch cve ry-
thing beyond our own p(' rsonal biography see ms vague, blurred,
and so me how unreal. The wor ld is full of signs and information.
which stand for things that no one full y understa nds Iwca usf' th ey,
too, turn out to be lII e n' signs for othn things. 'I'll(' rf'a l thing
rcmains hiddf'n. No one cv(' r gelS to see it.
Nf'vertheless, I am co nvinced that rea l things do f'xist, howe ver
endange rf'd th f'y may be. The re arc earlh and watf'r, tlw li ght of
the SUIl , landscapf's and vegetation : and tl1('r(' arf' ohjeets, made by
man, such as maehines, tool s or musica l instrumf'nts, which are
what th ey are, which are not mere vehicles for an arti sti c message,
whose prese nce is self-evid ent.
Wh en we look at objects or buildings which seem to be at peace
within th emselves, our perce plion Iwco mes ca lm and dull ed. The
ohj ects we perceive have no messag(' for us, th ey are simpl y there.
Our perceptive faculties grow qui et, unprejudi ced and unacqui si-
tive. They reach beyond signs and symbol s, they a re open, e mpty.
It is as if we could see something on which we ca nnot focus our
consciousness. Here, in this percf' ptual vacuum, a me mory may
surface, a memory which s('ems to issue from th e depths of lime.
Now, our observation of tlw obj ect embraces a presentime nt of the
world in all its wholeness, because there is nothing thaI ca nnot be
The re is a power in the ordinary things of everyday life, Edward
Hopper's paintings see m to say. We only have to look at Ihe m long
e nough to sce it.
Completed landscapes
To me, th e prese ncf' of ce rtain buildings has something secret
about it. They sef'm simpl y to be th ere. We do not pay any special
allenlion to them. And yet it is virtuall y irnpossihlf' to imagine th e
pl ace where they stand without them. Thf' s(' huildings appear to be
alH: hon, d firml y in th e ground. They make the imprcssion of hf'i ng
<l sf' lf-cvidc lit part of tlwir surroundings <llld th ey seem 10 be say-
ing: -' I am as you see me and I Iwlong here."
I haw a passionate desire to d e ~ i g n su(' h buildings, buildi ngs
that, in time, grow naturall y into bei ng a pa rt of the fo rm a nd hi s-
tory of t hei r pi <lee.
Eve ry new work of archit ect ure int ervf'nes in a specifi c hi stori ca l
situati on. It is essenti a l to th e qu alit y of th e inl f' rVe nti on that
th e new building should emhrace qualiti f's whi ch ca n e nte r into a
IH (' aningful di a logue with th e ex isting sit uati on. For if t he int erve n-
ti on is to find its pl ace, it mu st Ill <l ke us see wh ut already cxists in
a new li ght. We throw a stone into th e wat er. Sa nd swirl s up a nd
settl es <lga in . The stir was necessa ry. The stone has found il s pl ace.
But th e pond is no longer th e samf'.
I Le li evf' th at buildings onl y be accepted by th eir surroundings if
they havf' the abilit y to appeal to our e moti ons a nd minds in vari -
ous ways. Since our feelings and understa nding are rooted in the
past, our sensuou s co nnecti ons with a building Illust rf's pect thc
process of re membe ring. But , as John Berge r says, what Wf' re melTl -
be r ca nnot be co mpared to Ihf' end of a line. Vari ous possi biliti es
lead to and meet in th e act of rf' membering. Images, moods, forms,
wo rds, signs or compa ri so ns ope n up possihilit ies of a pproach . \'(Ie
IllIl St (;o nst rucl a radi al sys1.f'm of a pproac h th at cna hl f's us to sef'
the wo rk of a rchitecture as a foca l point from di lle rent angles
simultaneously: hi storica ll y, aesth eti ca ll y, funct ionall y. personall y.
passio nat c ly.
The tension inside the body
AnlOtl g a ll th c drawings produced by arc hit cl:Is, my favo rit f's are
th e wo rk ing drawings. Worki ng drawings a rc df' tail ed and ohj ec-
tivf'. Crea ted for th e nai't slll e n who arc to give Lh p imagined obj ect
a materi a l fo rm, th ey arc fret· of associative man ipul ati on. They do
not try to convin ce and impress like project drawi ngs. They seem to
be sayin g: "Thi s is exactl y how it will look."
WOI-king drawi ngs a rf' like a natomi ca l drawings. They revea l
so nlPlhing of til(' secret inner tensio n that th e fi nished a rchit ect u-
ra l hody is rf' lucta nt to divul ge: t he art of joining, hidde n geo met ry,
th e fri ct ion of mat e ri als, th e inne r forces of bear ing a nd holding,
t he human wo rk whi ch is inherent in ma n- made things.
Per Kirkeby onee did a bri ck sculpture in the form of a house
for a Oocumenta ex hibition in Kassel. The house had no entra nce.
Its intf' rior was inaccessibl e <l nd hidd en. It remain ed a Sf'cret ,
whi ch added an aura of mysti ca l depth 10 til(' sculpture's oth er
qu aliti es.
I think that the hidd en stru ctures a nd constructi ons of a house
should be organi zed in such a way th at t hey endow the bod y of the
building with a qua lity of inner te nsion and vibration. Thi s is how
vi olins are made. They remind us of t he li ving bodi es of nature.
Unexpected truths
In my youth I imagined poetry as a kind of colored cl oud made up
of more or less diffusf' meta phors a nd a llusions whi ch, a lth ough
th ey mi ght be enjoya bl e, we re diffi eult to associate with a rel iahl e
view of th e world . As an architect, I have Ica rned 10 understa nd
tlr at the opposite of thi s youthful definiti on of poetry is prohahl y
closer to the truth.
If a work of a rehit ect ure consists of forms a nd contf' nts whi ch
co mbin e to creat c a strong fund ament a l Ill ood that is powerful
e nough to aileet us, it may possess th e qualiti es of a wor k of a rt.
This art has, howevc r, nothing to do with int e resting confi gurati ons
or ori gi nali ty. It is conce rn ed wilh insights and underst anding, a nd
ahove a ll wit h truth . Pe rh aps poetry is unex ]l f'('ted truth. It li ves in
st illness. Archi tecture's a rli st ic t ask is t o give t hi s still ex pect<l nc)' a
form. Th e building it se lf is npVf' r poet ic. At most, it nwy possess
suhtl f' qllaliti ('S \\ hi ch. ut l:ert ain 1ll 0lll enlii,!Wrmil li S to unf/{-rstand
tllUt \\t' \\ere ahlf' 10 IIndf'rSland in quite thi ::. \\'u)
The logical dCH' lopmcnt of 11 \\ork of art' lIit N' lurf' dqu··nds
0 11 nlt iOllal Hnd ohjef'tiw crite ria. \'(' he n I Fwrmit subj (,(' li H a nd
un('onsid('f('fl idf'as to int ervene in the objecti ve t'OtlrS(' of th e
I'ro('('ss. I acknowledge the signili cance of f(' t' lings
in my work.
\X 11t'11 archite(,t s talk about their buildings, \\ hat tllI'y say is oftl"'n
at odds "ith thc stutelllcnt s of Ih e buildings Thi s is
probabl y l'on nccled with th e fa ct thai Ih ey tend to talk a good <l l"'a l
aboul til(' rati on al , thought-out asp('('ts of Ih f' ir \\ o rk anrllcss ahout
th c s<,cret passion which insl)ircs it.
Thc pro('ess is basf'd on a consta nt inlf'rpla) of f('('ling a nd
r('<l so n. 'I'll{' ('clings, longings, and df'si rf's that elll rrge
and (knHlnd to b(' givc ll a form must be (;ontrollf'r! hy criti(,al powers
of hut it is our f(,plings that tell us wlH'tlH'r ahstra('t con-
siderations rea ll y ring true.
To a large degree, d(,signing IS based on understanding and
f'sta hli shing syslt' ms of order. Yet I beli eve that the essential sub-
stanc(' of thc architecture we seck proceeds from fcelin g and
insight. Prel' ious moments of intuition res ult from patient work,
\'\ ith Ilw sudd en emergence of an inne r image. a ne\\ line in a
the \\hole design changes and is newl) formulat ed \\ithin
a fraction of u sccond. It is as if a po\\ c rful drug \H: r(' sudd(' nl y
taking dfl'l:t. E\l'r)thing I knl'\\ befo re abolltlhl' thing I alll ('r('at-
ing is fl ooded by iI bri ght ne\\ li ght. I l" pc ri c nc(' jO) and IHlss io n,
a nd somNh ing d('(' p insidc IlI C s('eIll S 10 affirm: " I \\<lnl to huild thi !;

Composing in space
(;('ol11 f' try is about Ih c hl\\ s of linl 'i'!, plan(' a nd three-
dinu'nsio na l bodies in span'. Cl'Onlt'l r) ca n Iw lp us understand
11 0\\ to handl f' spacc in arehitcl'ture.
In ar(' hiI C('iU re, thc re <In' 1\\0 basic of Sll<l ti<l1 co m-
posi ti o n: tlw doscd archit ct' tura l bod) \\ hi(' h isolat{'s space within
il s{' lf. and thc op('n hod) \\hich emhran.'s an ar('a of spacl' thai is
('onnc('t('d "ith thf' cndl ess continuum. Tl w (" t(' nsio n of space ca n
hc madc visible throu gh bodies such as slahs or po lf' s placed freely
or in rows in the spati al cx panSt' of a roo rn.
I do not claim to know what spacf' r{'all y is. Th(' long{' r I think
ahout it , til(' more mysterious it lJl' corncs. Ahout OIl(' thing, how-
eve r, I am sure: when wc, as architcds, are ('o ll('f'r ned with space,
we are co ncern ed with but a tiny pa rI of the infinit y that surrounds
the earth. and yet each and building ma rks a uniqu f' place in
thi s inlinity.
Wilh this idea In mind. I sta rt by skcl<;hing the fir st plans and
sel:lions of my design. I draw spat ia l diagrams and si ml)l e volumes,
Ilr) to visualize th em as prccise bodi es in spm;l', and I feel it is im-
port<lnt to sense exactl y how they de fin e and separate an area of
int crior slHl ce from the spac(' that surrounds th em, or how they con-
lain a p<lrt of the infinite spatial continuum ill a kiJl(I of open vessel.
Buildings that have a strong impact alw<lys cOllv<, y an inte nse
feeling of th eir spati a l qualit y. They e mbrace the myster ious void
callcd space in a special way a nd make it vibrat e.
Common sense
Dcsigning is inventing. Wh en I \\as still at nrl l:o nnd nafts SdlOOI , wc
trif'd to follow thi s princi pl e. \\ f' looked for a n('w So luli o n to eve ry
probl e m, We felt it was impo rtant lo h{' <lvant-ga rd f', Not until lat e r
did I realiz(' that there a re basica ll y oil ly a w ry few a rehitc(' lural
probl ems for whieh a valid solution has not alft'ad)' b{'en found,
In rctrospf'ct, my cducation in df' sign see lll s so mewhat a-i1islOri-
ca l. Our role models were the pioneers and inventors of "' Das Nf' lIC
Ihucn. " We rcgardf'd a rchit ectural hi story as a part of gellf' ral ed u-
cat ion, which had liul c influf'nce on our work as dcsigners. Thus,
\\(' frequcntly invented what had already b(' en invf'n ted. and we
trif'd our hand at inventing the uninventahle.
Thi s kind of training in design is not without it s educational
value. Lat er, howeve r, as practi cing architects, we do well to get
acquainted with the enormous fund of knowledge and expc ri c ll cf'
con tained in the hi storv of architccture. I beli eve that if we intf' -
grate thi s in our work, we have a Iwltf'r chancc of making a gf'nu-
ine co ntribution of Ollr own.
Architecture is, however, not a linear process that leads more or
less logically and dirf'cti y from architectural hi story to new huild-
ings. On thc search for the architecture that I envisage, I fr equ entl y
experiencc stifling moment s of emptiness. Nothing I ca n think of
see ms to tall y with what I want and ca nnot yet envi sage. At th ese
moment s, I try to shake offthf' academic knowl edge of architecture
I have acquired becausc it has suddenly started to hold me back.
Thi s helps. I find I ca n breat he morc freely. I catch a whiff of the
old familiar mood of thc inventors and pioneers. Dcsign has once
again bccolllf' invention.
The creat i\'e act in which a work of arehitccture comes into
being goes beyond all hi storica l and tcchnical knowledge. Its focu s
is on the dialogu e with the issues of 0111' time. At the moment of it s
creal ion, architecture is hound 10 the prf' se nt in a very specia l way.
It rdl f'cts the spirit of its inventor and gives it s own answers to the
question s of our time through it s fun ctional form and appearancf",
its rf"lationship with other works of architecture and with thc place
wlwre it stands.
The answers to these questions which I can formulat e as all archi-
tect are limit ed. Our tinH.'S of change and transition do not pf"rrnit
big gestllres. There are o nl y a few remaining cOlllmon vaitJf"s left
upon which w,-' can build a nd which wt' all share. I thus appeal for
i.I kind of ar('hitecturf' of common sense based on the fundamentals
that we sti ll know, understa nd, and reel. I ca refull y o bs(' rve the
co nf'rt' te a ppeara nce of the world, and in my buildings I try lo
c nhance what seems to bc valuable, to co rr('('t what is di st urhing,
a nd to create anew what W(' feel is mi ssing.
Melancholy perceptions
Ettore Scola's film " I.e ha l" r('('ounts fift y yea rs of European hi sto ry
with no dialogue and a complf'tf' unit y of place. It co nsists so lely of
mu sic and tllf' motion of peopl e movin g and dancing. We remain in
the sa me room with the sa me peopl e througho ut , while tilTl e goes
by and the da ncers grow older.
'rhe focll s of the film is on it s main characters. But it is the ball-
room with its til ed floor <.Ind it s p<.lncling, th e stairs in th e back-
ground and th e lion 's paw at th e sid e which creates the film's
dense, powe rful at mosphere. Or is it th c other way round'! Is it tht'
peopl e who e ndow the room with it s particular mood ?
I ask thi s qu esti o n because I am convi nced that a good building
must be ca pabl e of absorbing the tra('es of human life and thus of
taking o n a specifi c ri chness.
Naturall y, in thi s eo ntf' xt I think of the patina of age on materi-
a ls, of innumerable small snatches on surfaces, of varnish that has
grown dull and hrilll e, and of edges poli shed by usc. But wh en I
clost' Ill y t'yes and try to forget both these phys ica l traces and my
own first associations, what re mains is a different impression, a
dee per feeling - a consciousness of time passing and an awareness
of th e human lives that have been acted out in these places and
rooms and charged them with a special aura. At th ese mome nt s,
architecture's <.Icsthetie a nd I}ra eti ca l v<.Ilues, styli sti c and hi stori cal
signifi ca nce are of second<.lr y importance. What matins now is only
thi s feeling of dee p 1Ilf'l a nchol y. Architecture is ex posf' d to life. If
it s body is sensiti w f'nough. it ca n assume a qualit y tllat bears wit-
Ilf' S5 to till"' reality of past life.
Steps left behind
When I work 011 a d(,s ign I allow mysf' lf to lw gui dt' d hy images and
moods that I relllcmber and ('a n rf'lat e to thf' kind of ar('hitef'IIHf'
I am looking for. Most of thf' imag(,s that ('o me to mind originate
from my subj ective ('xperif'nc(' and are only rare ly accompanied hy
a re membered archit ectural cOlllnwntary. While I am design ing
I try to find out \\ hat thf' sf' images mea n so that I can learn how to
!'r('ate a \walth of visual forms and atmospheres.
Aftf'r a cerlain time, the object I am designing takes on some of
th e qualities of the images I use as modc ls. If I can find a mea ning-
ful way of inte rlock ing and superimposing these qualiti es, th e
object will assume a depth and ri chness. If I am to achi('ve this
effect , the qualiti es I am giving the design mu st rnerge and blf'nd
with th e co nst ru ctional and formal structure of the fini shed build-
ing. Form and construction, a ppearunce and funct ion ar(' no longe r
se parate. They be long togethe r and form a whole.
When we look at the finished building, our eyf's, guidf'd by our
analytical mind, t end to st ray and look for detail s to hold on to. But
the synthcsis of th e whole docs not beeo nH' ('o mpre hf'nsibl e
through isolated detail s. Everything refe rs to f'verything.
At thi s momcnt , the initial imagf's fadf' into tht' background. The
model s, words, <lnd compari so ns that Wf'rf' necessary for th e crea-
tion of th e whole di sa ppea r like stf'pS that have been left behind.
The new building <.Issumes tllf' foca l position and is it se lf. Its hi story
I bt' lil'\(' that archil(,('lur(' today need s to reflt'l, t on til(' and
pos.osi bilitif·$ \\'h;('h arc inherently its 0\\11. An' hilf'(' llIrf' nol a \('hi-
elf' or a for things that do not Iwlong to il s esse li ce. In a
SO('j(' l) that n' ll'bralt'S tht, incssential. architecture (; iln put lip ....
resiSIaIU'c. ('ounl cn.lct til(' \\0.151.(' of forms and IIIl·a nings . • Intl sp<'ak
its 0\\ II language.
I IJcli t,\l' IllUt the language of arc hit ecture is nol a question of a
specific 51) Ie. Every building is built for 11 sl)ceirit, LI St.' ill it 5p('('·i fi(·
place alld for a spc{'ific socif'ty. 1"')' buildings try 10 illl SWN Ih('
qUl' stions that (,1IlC'rg(' from these simple fact s as and nil -
il'ally as Illf' ) ('till.
The hard core of beauty
'1'\'0 wn'ks ago I happell ed to Iwar ;'1 radio progra m on the Ameri-
('a n POl'l \\ illiam Carlos Williams, program was enlitled "' I'he
Hard Core of 13ea uI )':' Thi s phrase (,aught Ill )' attention, I like the
idea Ihat bt-'auly has a hard ('orc, and wlien I think of arl.'hitcl.'tlire
thi s associat ion of heauty and a hard ('ore has a ('erlain familiarity,
"Thl.' machine is a thing thai has no slIlH·rfluol.l s part ti," Williams is
supposed to haw' said, And I inllllediatel y think I know what Iw
meant. It 's a thought that Peter Handke allucl(' s to, I fef'1. when IH"
sa)s that Iwauty lies in natural , grown Ihings thai do not carry any
signs or messages, and when he adds Ih;.l1 Iw is UpSN when he can-
not di scover. di s-cover. the mea ning of things for himself.
And then I learned from the radio program that the poetry of
\\ illialll Carlos Williams is based on Ih e ('0 11\ ict ion Ihat there are
no ideas excc pt in the t h i ngs t helll se ives, and thai the pu rpose of hi s
art was to direct hi s sensory perccption to th e world of things in
order to mak(· thelll hi s own.
In Williams's \\ork, said th f' speaker, thi s takes placc scemingly
une motion all y and laconi ca ll y, and it is preci se ly for thi s reason
that hi s texts have such a strong ('motional impat: t.
What I hf'ard appeals to l11e: noL to wish to stir lip emotions \\ ilh
huildings, I think to myself, but 10 allow emolions 10 emerge, to he,
And: 10 remain close to th e thing ilself. (·Iost· 10 the of the
thing I have to shape. conlidcnt thai if til(' building is conceived
ac(,urate ly enough for il s place and it s function, it \\ill ci('\'elop its
own strength, \\ith no need for artistic additions.
The hard core of heaut): {'oncC'ntralf'd suhstanc(-',
But where arC' an'hitc('tIHf" S fif·lds of fOfl'(' that ('ollstitute it s
substarH't", aho\'f' and Ilf'),ond all supt'l'fit 'i alit y and iJrbilrarinesti?
Italo Cal\ino 1f'lIs us in hi s "L('zioni alllf'ric<lIU''' ahout th(' Ital -
ian IlOf'1 Cia(,omo Lcopardi \\ho S<I\\ Ihe heaut) of a \\ork of art. in
hi s caSt' Iht' bt.,atlt) of litcraturf'. in its \'agu elll' ss, OP('I1I1('SS, and
incleH' rlllinaq, I)('('ausf' this lemcs thc form opel1 for diff('r-
elrt 1Il{'a llingtl.
L('OI)ardi 's t'l lat{'uH'llt see ms convincillg c llough. \\orh or ohj('l"\l'I
of art that IIIOV{, us arc multi-fa('clcti: tilt') haH and
1)(,l"haps f' 1H1I ('ss laY('l"s of meaning ,\hich oH'rlap and int{'nH'a\(',
and whi('h dtaug{' as \\t.' I.'hangc our angle of ohservation.
But how is the<: liit ed to obtain thi s d('pth and Illultiplicity
in a building of hi s making'! Can vagu(,ll(,ss and ope nness 1)('
planlled'! Is tller(' not a ('o ntradietion hf're to th(' l'laim or act.'llracy
thaI Williams':;; argulllf'nt sef'ms to
Cahino finds a sllrpri sing answer to thi s ill a tl'xi b) I.eopardi.
Cal\ino point s Otlt that in Leopanli 's O\\n te"\ls, this lo\('r of thc
indf'l('f"lllinale r('vea ls a Iwinstaking fidelit y 10 the things h{' df'-
scrih(' s and offers 10 our contcmplalion, and he to Ihe ('on-
clutl ioll : " Thi s, then, is \\hat Lcopardi dcmands of us so that \\{' c;:tn
e njoy Ih e beaut) of thc indeterminate and ,agut"'! 1I f' ('ails for
highl), alTural(' and p('dantic attcntion in Ill(' composition of ('a('h
pictuf"{'. in lht' lnC'ti culoll s definition of df'laii s. in the' ("hoi('(' of
objl'cls, li ghting and atmospherc with til(' aim of attai lling th('
dcsircd Ca lvino ciosf' s wit h thf' sec'mingly paradoxi -
ca l proc-Ialllalion: "'I'll(' POf'1 of the vagu e ca n only be lhe poct
of pr('ci sion! "
\\ hat intf'rests lilt' in this story reporlcd by Ca lvino is not thc
('xhortation to precision and patient , detail ed \\ork with \\ hi (' h \\C
are a ll fami liar, hUI the impli cation that richncss and multipli(·it )
emanale from the Ihings Ihelll sd\ cs if W(' obs('rve thc m attentive l)
<Inti giH' lit{'1Il tll{'ir duc. Applied 10 architc('!urf', thi s mf' ans for 1Il{,
Ihut po\\{'r and Illultiplicil) must he dCHlop('d from th(' assigned
task or, in other "orels, from til(' things that ('onstilutl' it.
Joh n Cage sa id in one of hi tl led u (,(' S that 11(' is not a ('omposcl' \\ 110
Iwar:, music in his mind ami thel1 attelllpb to \\ritt.' il dO\\n. I-I f' has
anotlwr \\a) of operating. I-If' \\orks out ('ont·t'llIs alHi strudures and
tllf'lI has thcm performed to find out ho,\ tht,) sound.
\\ IH' n I rf'ad Ihi s statellH'nt I r(,lll t' rnhert'd ho\\ \\1' rcce ntly
d(' \elopt" d a projcd for a thermal bath in liw mountains in Ill) stu-
dio, nol h) forming prt.'lilllinary images of Iht' building in our
minds and suhscquently ad 'lj)ting thrill 10 til{' as..,ignuH·nt, lwt by
('ndcavoring to ,Hl S\\Cr basi c questions ari sing from thf' lo(,ation of
th e give n sitt' , tht' purpose, and til{' building material s - mountain,
rock, wat('1" - whi('h at first had no "isual t'Onlt.'nl in tel" ms of ('xist -
ing arehitccture.
It was on ly after we had succc('lled in answ('ring, stcp by step, the
qucstions poscd by th e site, purpose and mat erial Illal structures
and spac('s emerged whi ch surpri sed us al1d \\ hich I possess
Ihe potellti <'l l of a primordial forcc thai rc'lch(' s dCf'per than th e
me re arrangclllcni of styli sti(,311) l}rccoIH.: ciH'd forms.
O('("ul}yi ng onesc lf with the in Iwrcnl la" s of 1..'0n('r('l.(' I h ings sli eh
as mountains, rock, and water in \\ith a building assign-
menl offers a chance of apprehending and c:..pressing so mf'" of the
primal and as it werc '\:uhurally inno('C'nt " aLLributes of these
clcments, and of dcvclol,ing an l.Irl'hit('('tul"l' that scts ou t from and
returns 10 real things. Precollct'i"ed imag(' s and styli sti ca ll y pre-
fabricated form idioms arc qualified o nl ) 10 block the access to
thi s goal.
y 5" iss co ll eagues I-h'rzog .wd de \1 ('u ron sa) Ilwl a rchitectu re
as a single whole no longer exisls loday, a nd that il accordingly has
to Iw <ll"tificiall y created in the head of the (/ esig,wr, as an act of
t hinking. The two architects deri\C from thi s assumption
their tlwory of architecture as a form of thought , all ar('hil('clure
whi ch, I SIlPPOSC, should rcflf'c'l its ('('f"(,brally ('oIHx'ived wholeness
in a special "3)'.
I do nol inlf'nd to Il ursuc Ihese architects' t lwor) o r ;:If"( ' hilt'cturf'
as a form or tho ught, but only the ass umption on which it is based,
nall1 (' l) that th e wholeness of a building in till: o ld Sl'n8t' of til('
masln builde rs 11 0 f'x ists.
Perso ll<" I). I still in th e se lf-suffi cient. corporf" " \\holf'-
ness of an art.' hit ectural object as the essential , if fl iffieult , aim of
Ill y "ork, if not as a natural or given f.wl.
Yl' t how we 10 achieve thi s "ho lelH"5S in an' hit f'f' turf' at a
tillle wl1('n IIw di vint', whi ch once gave things a meaning, and eve n
realil y it sf' if Sf'f'1II to bt· di ssolving in the f'ndlf' ss flu x of transitory
signs and
Pt'ln lI andk e writes of hi s f' ndf'avors to make texts and dest' rip-
lions part of the Cll vironnwnt they relate to . If I und ersl.lrld him
co rrectly, I alii confronlf'd here not only by the all -too-fami li ar
aware nt:SS of tlH" diffi cult y of eliminating artificialil) in things
created in an artificial act and of making th em part of the wor ld of
ordinar) and naluralthings, but al so b) the beli ef th at truth lies in
til(' things Ihelll s(' h es.
I belicvf' that if arti sti c proccsses stri v(' for wholent·ss, they al-
wa) s alteml}1 10 givc their creations a prf'se nce a kin to that found
in the things of nature or illllH" natural f'nvironmcnl.
Consl'quentl y, I find Ihal I can understand Handke, \\ho in the
same int ervi ew refers to himself as a wriler about places, when 11('
requires of hi s t(' xts that " Ih erf' should be no <.Idditiv(' s in them,
but a cugni zil ll ct' of df' tail s and of their int erlinking to. form a (. .)
fa ctual eOlllpl f'x.'·
TIl(' \\ord lIandke lISCS to dcs igll<.lt t, \\ hat I hil\f' hen' ('ailed iI
factual t' ompln, namel) "Sachvcrlw!t ," seems to Ill(' 10 bc llI ea n-
ingfu l \\ilh rf'g<.l rtl to the ailll of "hole and unadulterat ed thing:, :
("Hl('t fa(, tual cont ent s lIlu st be bro ught logf' tl1('r. buildings IIlUi) t
thought of as \\h 05e detail s have heen right I) idelltified
and put illto a f,.It't ual re lationship to f'Heh ot he r. A fadu al n' la-
tionbili,, !
Th C' IJOi nl Ihal e merges hert' is th e redut.'tion of 111 (' ('o nt e nt s
10 rt'i.d thing:s. Handke also spC'a ks, in thi s co ntext , of fi <k lit y to
things. li e \\ould like his dcsaiplions, he sa)::., to b(' as
faithfullH' s!o! to the place the) describe and not as sllppit-Ill t'litar)
SlatPIlJ(' III S of thi s kind Iwlp me 10 I:Olll e to t(' nns "ith Ih e di s-
s:.lIi sfa etion I of len cx pf' rif'n ce when I conte mplat C' r('t·t'lll an.: hit cc-
lur('. I frt' qu cllIl ) cOlli e across buildings th ai hav ... bet'll dcsigned
with u good deal of f'Hort and a will to find a spc('iul for m, and I
find I am IJUt off by them. The architect rf' sponsibl e for the build-
ing is not prese nl , hilt he lalks to lIle unceas ingl y from eve ry detail ,
In' kt, C' p:s o n say ing th e same thing. and I qui ckly lo:s(' inlerC"st.
Good a rehit f'ct ure should rece ive the human visit o r. should ena hlf'
him LO cXI)erience it and li ve in it, but it s ho uld not co nstantl y talk
at him.
,"\ h)', I ofte n "onder, is the obvious but diffi (, ult so luti o n so
rare ly tri ed '? \"\ hy do \\c have so littl e eonfidencC' in the basic
things archi tecture is mari t' from: mate ri al, structure, ('o nstru cti o n,
bearing and being borne, ea rth and sky, and confidc nc(' in spaces
that arc reall y HlIowed to he spaces - sl)aces whost:> endosi ng wall s
and co nstitu cnt mat erial s, concavit y, c mptiness, li ght , air, odo r,
receptivity and resonance arc handled with res pe('t and care?
I persona ll y like the idea of designing and building hou:ses from
which I ('Hfl withdraw at the cnd of tht' forming process, leaving
behind H building thaI is itself, that serves as a place to li v(' in a nd
a part of the " o rld of things, and that ('an malli.l ge pe rfcctl ), well
\,ithout Ill )' pe rsollHI rhetori c.
To Ill C. buildings can h3\ e a beautiful sill.'!l(·c that I associate
"it h att rihutes such as composure. se lf-evi dc lll.'e, durHbili l),. prcs-
(, IW(' an d inl egril ), and with warmth and S('Il SUOUSIH'SS as \\ ell ;
a huilding that is being itself, bei ng a building, not represent ing
anything, ju::. t being.
Say Ihat it is a cr ude dfnt. hl ;:u.' k r(' d$,
Pink )ello\\ s. orang(' "hiles, too IlHH· h as thf' )' are
To l>(, <1I1) thill g e lse in the sunli ght of the room.
Too much as thf' y are to be cha nged by metaphor,
Too act ll al, things th at in he ing ITa l
'lake an) imaginings of th em lesser thing:s.
Thi s is th e beginning of the poem " Bouquet of Hoses in Sunlight "
by the Ameri can I)' ri cist or quiet contemplation, Wallace Stcvcns.
Wallace Sle\'e nS, I rpad in th e introducti on to hi s collection
of poems, accepted th e challenge of looking lo ng, pati entl y and
exactl y and of di s-covering and und erstanding things. Hi s l)Oe ms
arc not a protest or a complaint aga inst a los t hl\\ Hnd order. nor a re
th ey the ex pression of any sort of co nsternation, but they seek a
harmony whi ch is possibl e all th e same and \\hi ch - in hi s case -
can on ly be Ihat of th e poem. (Ca lvin o goes a sle p furth er along
thi s line of thought in an attempt to define hi s lit era ry \\ork when
hc says that he has only one defense aga in st til(' loss of form that he
spes a ll around him: an id ea of lit e rature.)
For Steve ns reality was th e wi she{l- for goa l. Surreali s m, it
appcars, did not impress him, for it invent s without di scovcring. I-Ie
pointed out that to portray a shell pla), ing an accordion is to invc nt ,
not di scover. And so it cro ps lip once again. thi s fundament al
thought that I seem to find in Williams <.l nd Handke, and th at I al so
sense in til(' pa int ings of Edward Ho pper : it is o n I)' bctwepn the
rcalit) of things and the imagination that the sl)ark of the work of
art is kindl ed.
If I tran::. lat e thi s statement into archil ('(:tural terms, I te ll m),self
that th l' spark of th e successful building ('a n onl) hl' kindl(,d be-
tW(,(' 1l tll (' realily oftlw things pertain in g 10 it and till' illli.l gination .
And thi s is no rcvelation to IIH' , but Ih ... confirmation of sOlliething
I ('o nt illuall y stri H fo r ill Ill ) wo rk . and th e confirmati o n of a \\ ish
\\ho!)(' roots SC(' 1Il to 1)(' <1 (' £'1) insi<i f' m(',
But to rcturn to tilt: qu('s tio n o ne fin al t ime: \\ iH' re do i find Iht.'
r('<llil y 011 whi eh i mu sl ('o ll ('(' nlrat e my pm\t.' rs ofima g- in al io n when
Mt f' IllI, ting to design a building for a parti cular plan' and purpu5e'!
OntO k('v to til t.' answ(' r lies. I beli (,ve, in t h(' words "pl acc" a nd
" I) ur pos(''' thCIll S(' h ('li .
III an cssa) t.' nlill ed " Building D\\ l' lI ing Thinking," ~ l a r l i n
lI('ideggf' r wrot f': " Li\ ing a mo ng things is Ill{' ha::i i(' prin cipii' of
human f'xi stcnct.' ," whi ch I unde rstand to mr an dlat we are neve r in
<Ill abstract world hut always in a world of things, evcn when Wl' think.
And. o nce aga in I-Iei d('gge r : " The rel ali o nship of man to pla('(' s and
thro ugh pl acf' s to SP<1('(,8 is based on hi s d\\ e lling in the m."
The conce pt of (" H' lI ing, unde rstood in II cidf'gge r' s wide sc nse
of li ving a nd thinking ill plat f' s a nd spacrs, contai ns a n ('xact refe r-
e!l ec 10 what rea lit y mean s to /li e as an archit ect.
II is not the rea lit y of th eori es detached fr om things, it is the real -
it y of th e concret(' bllildingassignment re i:.lIing 10 Ih e aet or stat c of
dwell ing th at int f' rests me a nd upon whi ch I wish to t.·o ncentrale my
imaginat ive faculti es. It is the rea lit y of bu ild ing material s - stone,
d oth , stee l, leath er . . - and the rea lily of t he structures
I use to constru et the Iwilding whose prope rti es I wi sh to penet rat e
with my imaginati on, bringing meaning and se nsuousness 1. 0 hear
so th at the spark of the successful building may be kindl ed,
a huilding that ca n servc as a home fo r man.
The rea lity of archit ccture is the concrete body in whi ch fo rms,
vo lumes, a nd spa('r s cOlli e into being. There art' 11 0 id eas exe(, pt
ill things.
From passion for things
to the things themselves
It is illl po rlanilo 111 (' to rdl (,f'1 ahoul archit eC' tli n', 10 :-. t,' p h<l('k fro m
l1'I y cl ai l) \\ o rk and wk(' a loo k at "hat I am doing a nd \\ h) I a m
doill g il. I lo\'e doing thi s, and Ithink I Il('ed ii , too. I do not work
lowa rd s <l r(' hil c('llIr(' fro m a tlwo rf'l i{'all y defined po int of dqJar-
tllr(" fo r I a m committ ed to ma king: archi tecture, to building. to an
idf' al of p{' rfecl io n. just as in Ill y boyhood I used to make th ings
ac(;ording 10 my ideas. th ings that had to be just ri ght, for rt' <l so ns
whi ch I do not reall y und ersland. It was alwa) s th e re, thi .., d('epl y
pe rsonal feeling for th e things I made for myself, and I n(' ve r
thought of it as be ing anything sp('(' ial. It was just tll t.' rl'.
Today, I am aware that my " o rk as an archit ect is larg(' ly a quest
for Ihi s e<lrl y passion, thi s obsessio n, a nd a n att empt to unde rstand
il betl er a nd to r(,fin e il. And \\h en I renect o n wh(, th er I ha\(' since
add ed ne\\ imag(,s a nd passions to the old o n(' s, and wh etl1(' r I have
learned so mething in my training and pract ic(" I r(' ali z(' that in
SOIll (, way I seem al ways to have known th e inluiti ve co re of new
di scov(' ri (' s.
I Ii \'(, a nd work in the Craubtindell in a farming villagc surrounded
by In ountains. I sometimes wo ndt'r whcth er thi s has influ e nccd my
wo rk . and th e thought th' lt it pro babl y has is not unpl easant.
" o uld th(' buildings J d('sign look different if, instead of li\i ng in
Craubi.i nc)(·n, I had spr nt Ih r pHol 25 )ears in Ih e la'Hl sca p(' of Ill )
youth o n 111(' Il orth ern foolhill s of th e Jura mount<l ins, with the ir
roll ing hills and bccch woods and til(' familiar, reass uring vici nit)
of tilt' urbane cit y of Basel ?
As soon as I begin to think about thi ::. qu est ion, I rcali zp that Ill y
work has bee n inftu cnc(' d by many pI Hc('s.
Whe n I concc nlral (' on a specifi c sil e or pl ace for whi ch I am
going 10 design a building, if I try to plumb it s depths, it s form, its
hi story. a nd ils sensuous qua liti es, images of oth er pl aces st art to
invade thi s pro(;ess of I)rccise observati on: images of I)laees th at
I kn ow and th at oncc imprt' ssed me, images of ordina ry or specia l
pla ces that I carry with lIl e as inner visions of spec ifi c moods a nd
qu aliti es; images of a rchit ectural situati ons, whi ch e man ate from
tllf' world of a rt , of films, th eat e r or lit erature,
Somet imes thcy co me to me unbidd en. th ese images of pl aces
that are fr equ ent I)' at first ghlll ce ina ppropri at(" or ali e n, images of
pl aces of ma n)' differcnt ori gins. At other times I summon th em. I
need th em, for it is onl ), wh en I confront and compare th e essential s
of different pl aces, when I allow simil ar, related, or maybe ali en
el ements to cast their li ght on th e pl ace of my inte rvention that t he
focused, multi face ted image of the loca l csscnce of th t" sit e enw rges.
a vision that revca ls connecti ons, exposes lines of fo rce and creates
exci teme nt. It is now t hat the fe rtil e, cre<ltivc ground appea rs, an d
th f' network of possibl e approaches to the spccifi c place e lll f' rge a nd
tri gger the processes and decisions of des ign. So I immerse- mysc lf
in the pl ace and t ry to inhabit it in my imaginati on, a nd at the same
t ime I loo k be),o nd it at th e world of my ot hc r pl aces.
When I COIll e- across a building that has dc\ eloped a special prcs-
enc(' in co nn ect ion \\ith th e place it st<lIlds in, I sometimes feel that
it is imbued with an inner te nsion that rders to something ove r and
a bovf' th e pl ace it self.
It seems to be pa rt of t he- essence of its pl a£'e, and at the sa lll e
time it spea ks of th e world as a
\, hen a n a rch itc('\ ura l design dra\\ s 501f' ly fr om t radit ion an d
onl y rcpf'a ts til(' di da t('S of its sit e, I sellS(' a Im;k of a ge nuine co n-
('c rn \\ith til(' world and tilt' (' manati ons of cont c lllpOnlr) liff'. I f a
\\ork of a rchiteeturc speaks 0 111 ) of eont f' mpora r), t r(' nds and
sophi sli (,<l tPd visions "ithout triggcri ng vih rations ill it s pl ace, t hi s
\\ ork is not <l ndlOred ill its si ((', and I mi ss th e specifi c gravit y of th e
ground it staru.l s on.
1 We wl..' re standing arollnd the drawing ta bl e t.llking abollt a pro-
ject by an archil f'ct whom w(' a ll hold in hi gh rega rd. I ('onsid f' rf' d
the proj l' d int eresting in Illllll y ways. I mentioned st'vr ral of its spe-
ci fi c qll alit if's a nd added th at Some time prf' violl siy I had lai{1 as ide
Ill )' posit ive prejudi ce whi ch spra ng from my hi gh estimati on of th e
a rchit f'ct and taken Hn unbi' d look at the proj ect. And I had
come to t he conclusion thai, as a whole, I did not re<llI )' like it. We
di scussed th e possible n'asons for my impression and ca lll c up
with a fcw dCl<lil s without arriving at a valid co nclu sion. And thf'n
one of lhe younge r nwmbe rs of th e group, a t<1 lcI1I (' <I and usuall y
rat ionall )-thinki ng archit f'ct, sa id: "' It is a n int eresting building
for all sorts of lheorf' ti (;al and pract ical reasons. Tin' t roubl f' is, it
htls no soul. "
5 0111 (' w(' eks later, I was sitting outdoors drinking ('o l'l'(' e with my
wife <1 nd di s(, ussing th e issll e of buildings with a soul. We talked
.a bout works of archit ecture that Wf" kn f' w and described
tll(' 1ll to (,l.I{' h other. And whe n \\ c reca ll ed buildings th at had th e
charactf'r isti cs we we re looki ng for a nd pinpoint f' cI the ir spcci<ll
qua lit ies, we became aware that the re a re buildings th at WI..' love.
And wlH' r{'as we kne w almosl at on{' e whi ch OIH' S belonged to the
sl)f' f,ial in whi ch Wl' W(' l'e intf'rf' stf' d, we found it diffi cult
to fi nd i.I common de nominator fo r tilf'i r qu aliti cs. Our attempt to
generali zt' scellll' d 10 rob til{' indi vidu al bu i Idings of t hei r spl t" ndor.
Uut tilt.' subj cct ('ontinIl Nllo pn'y on my mind, a nd I r{'sol\ ed to
t ry a nd \\ rit (, SOlll (' bri r-f descr ipt io ns of a rchit edura l situa ti ons th at
I lo\(" fragmf'lItary approaf'ilf' S basc{1 011 I'{'rsonal ('x!H'rij"l("' s that
haH' a \\ilh til) work. allil in so doing to 1II0H' "itbi"
till' menIal fralllf'\\ork in \\hirh I think ,\hell I alll
\\ith gl'llt' rating Ihf' csscntial s of a \\ork of III) 0\\11.
2 Tilt, main 1'00111:, of till' slIIall mountain hotd u\f'rlook"d tllf' ,ai-
ley 011 Ill(' hroad side of thf' long It had 1\\0 adjan'nt
\\OOd - piIlH'lj'c! r{'('{'ptioll rooms on 111f' ground floor, hOlh of Ihem
at't'f' .'isihlr from the l.:orridor and ('onllcetcd b) a door. The smaller
of Ihrm loohd like a t'omfortable place in whil'h to sit ant! read ,
and til(' largel' one, with fiw well-plat'ed tabl,'s, was ('I('arly Ihl'
pla('(' ill whi ch meal s \H'rf' servc{L On tllf' fir st floor tlH'n,' Wl'I't
bedrooms " ith shady woodcn lJalconif's. on thl' second floor
more b{'druorns opf'ning onto tcrral.:cs.
I \\ould rnjo) looking: at Ihl' ol}en sk) from the upper roo 111 5.
thought , \\f' approal.:hed the hotel for the first tilll(,. But 1I1f'
thought of M<l)ing in Ollt.' of the first floor room:, and or
\\ riting in til(' intimale atmosphere of tilt' shad) bakon) in the lal{'
afternoon secllled no less ;Il\iting.
ThNe \\as an opening in thc wall at the foot of til(' stair{'ase lead-
ing from tht' upper floor s to Ih(' f'nlralH.' {'. A serving hatch. III tll('
('arly aft"I'IIOOII S it held fruit flan s and white pi<JI(' S for tlie guesls.
Thf' SHIell of the fr(' sh flans look us hy as we ('HIIH' do\\ n
tilt' stairs, alld kitchen noi s(' s iss uetl fro III the haif-op<'11 door of
opposite room.
After a da) or t\\O \\e knew our \\a, around. Thni' \H'I'(' del ·k
dlilir::. !:' tiwk('d ,dong the side of the hotel. \\ hi('h adjoin:, Ihl' rncild-
0\\. A lilll(' \\a) iHHI) , in Ihe half shado\\ at the l' dgl' of til(' \\oml ,
\\l' nOli('f'fi .1 \\Olllan silling in a ('hair. reading. \\e picked lip
t\\o or the t·hair:; and looked for a spot of ollr 0\\11. During thl' da)
\\(' muall) drank our eoff{'(' ilt onf" of til{' \\oodell rolding on
thr narrow Hramla at Ihl' fr·ont. Tlw)' \\t' re al r<'gular ililer-
\'al s alollg 111(' fronl parapf't. Lood places to sit , Iht' st' :-.rnalllalJles
clingi ng to the edge of the \eranda; the sill \\as just til{' ri ght IH.'ight
for li se as a n e lbo\\-rcsl.
ConH' rsations \\ilh the other gllests usuall y too k pl<l cc <It dusk at
th e othe r verand;] tabl e's. placed in a row against the f<l ci.HIf' and
protpcled rrom til(' \\'('ather by thc uppcr floor s. The
frc nch window to the Vl'nllHla was 0lwncd afte r th e evening meal ;
we all stretched Ollr kgs und looked out over 1he \allf'y, and then
sat wilh a drink h) th e walilhat was still "arm from the day's sun-
shin e. Once, aftcr th c ev('ning l11('al, we were irwitrd to sit at th e
large corner tablc at th e far end of th e veranda near the entranct.'.
During the day, that spot always secmed to be us{' d by the regulars
or the house. I neve r sat in thi s ni che, which (,aught thc morning
SUIl at thc other e nd of th e veranda. On sunny mornings Ih ere was
usuall y someone a lready sittill g the re. reading,
Whe n I think ahout buildings that provide nr c with natura l spa-
tial conditions apr,ropriate to the place, to th e daily routinc, my
activities and the way I am fee ling, when I co njure up mental pi c-
tures of works of architccture that give me space to live and seem
10 anti cipat e and sati sfy Ill) needs, thi s mountain hot el always co Ill es
to mind. It was designed by a painter for hims(' lf a nd hi s guests.
3 Our first impress ion of the outside of til(' r('stmrrant mad e us
hopeful that we had found something better th an the other places
tdong th e main road of the tourist village. W(' wen' not di sa ppointed,
Entering through Ih e narrow porch, \\hich, as it turned oul , was
built from the inside behilld the main doo r like a \\Oode n shed. \\c
found ourselvf' s in a large, hi gh- ceilinged, ha ll-like room, its wall s
and ceiling lined with dark, matt, glea ming wood: regularly placed
frames and panel s, wainscoting, co rnices, inde nted joi sts resting on
brae-hiS with ornamental scroll s.
The atmosphe re of til<' roo m seemed dark, e\ {' n gloomy, until
our eyes gre\\ to the li ght. TIl(' gloom soon gmt' \\(1)
to a mood of ge ntl {' lwss. The daylight {'ntning through Ihe tall ,
rh) thmi ea ll y placed "indo\\ :) lit up ('(' rtain se(' li ons of 111 (' roolll .
\\ hil e ot lil'r whi t' h did not I}{' nefil from the relll'l' lioll of Ihe
li ght from the pane ling lay \\illl(:In.l\\n in half-s hado\\ .
As :; oon as I f'ntf'red the 1'00111 Ill y e)'l' was ca ught by a n rxtpn si on
in th e' ('(' nt (> r of the long out e r wall , a s('rni-cireular hul ge largc
ellough to accommodate fi\ c ta blr'S along the ellrv('11 \\all by the
\\indo\\s. The floor of the roo rn -Iwight nich e was on a sli ghtl y
hi gher I(' \ el than the rest of t1w hall. \0 doubt a bout it , I th ought.
thi s \\ as \\here I wallted to sit. '1'\\ 0 of th e tables were still free. The
sitting there. doubtl ess ordinary gucsts of th e rest aurant ,
had a privil eged air about thelll .
We hesitated and finall y d('cided on a t;] l1l e ill Ih e' almost e mpty
main part of til(' hall. Yf't we Ir esitaled again, and inst('ad of silting
d O\\11 \\ (' \\('nt in search of sc n ·icc, Afler a \\hil(' a girl al)l)e<l re(1
through <.1 door in the pane ling of the inner wall ;:lIId led us to a
in til(> ni che. We sat down , The slight fepling of irritation
occasiOlH'd by our arrival soon abat(>d, We lit our firsl cigarettcs
and ordered some win e.
At lil e next table two \\omen W{'fe holding an anirnatNI conver-
sation. One of th em was s l)eaki ng AmericHn. th e other S\\i ss Ger-
man , i\eithcr of thelll spoke a \\ ord in the other's language. The
voices of th e peopl e in Ih e grou p aL the next tabl e but 011(' sounded
pl easa ntl y far away, I 100k('(1 around and gradually absorbed th e
mood. I felt at case silting in tht' li ght of one of the windows, whi ch
no\\ see med tall er tha n (' \'('r. and looking into til(' dHrke ncd
ex panse of til(' hall, The other gUl' stS, busy \\ ith thf'ir ('onversations
and the ir llIf'al s, also seemed Iwppy to be sitting there; they be-
haved naturally, undi sturbed by other pf'oplf" s prese nce, with an
unconstrained ('onsidcrat e ll l'ss for tllf'ir fellow gUl' sts which le nt
thelll an air or di gnity. Oceul,i (' d as I was with my own activiti{' s. my
gau neH'rlhcl css alit occasio nal! ) on other fan:.s. I rf'alized
th aI I liked tire feeling of tlwir proximit y - in thi s roo rn in \\ hi ch
we alllook('d our best.
' I
· 1
4 Dri\ i H long a road on the t:oast of Ca Ii forn ia, we fi lIa Il y ani vl'd
at the was ill tilt:" <lrchite(:turiJl guidt,: a spr.m ling
t'o llll'ln of ilions 0111 a hHgf' ("panoe' of fl at land
hi gh OHr tht' Paf'ifi c. Barel) any karsti{' rock thrusting
through tilt' turf, a f('\\ hous{'s in th e immediate ro\\ :')
of tall. :-. ingl('-storey buildings with nat. projc(, ting roofs \\Crl'
co nlll'l'ted b) a:-. phalt paths covc red b) l'OIUTl'tl' on stet,l
l'OIUIIIIIS, anti Ihe rq;ular arrangelllcnt of tin' paths alld jJa\ilions
which al'l'l'ar('d to accolllmodate the chlssroorns \\<lS IH..'riodi(·ally
illtl'rruplt'd by buildings \\ith a special function at which \\ (' could
olily gu(' ss .. It \\as during the sc hool holidays, and Iht' ("ompl('x waS
d(' s(' rlt'(1. Thi' windows \\('rf' Sf' ! high up in til(' \\alls, and il was
hard to S('i' into the classrooms. We came across a larg.' Ilwtal door
to u side ('ollrlYHrd which seemcd to belong to one of till' classrooms ..
It \\ . IS sli ghtl ) open, and \\c managed to catch a glimpse of iJ roo III
\\ith dl' sks and a blill: kboard. It \\as plainl y furui shed. Thc \\alls
and Ill(' iloor sho\\ cd signs of int ell si \ c usc, ;'lIId tlie (hi) light enter-
ing through Ihl' high \\illllo\\s knl the room an allllospht'rl' Ihat
\\as hoth (·ollc('nlratcd and genllc.
Prot N·t ion from Ihe sun , shelter from til(' \\ind and rain. Hn
int clligl'nl approadl 10 the iSSIlf" of lighting, I thought : and I W(I"
aware' Ihal I had hy no Ilwans graspNI all Ill(' Slwfific qu alities of
this urt'hill'cturf' - thf' st raightforward si mplicity of il s slrIlClurf' ,
for exalllplf', \\ hidl W<lS remini scen t of industrial prf'( 'a:-. I cont'r('lf"
l'oll!o.tructions, or its spaciousness, or its lack of the pe(iUnlic refine-
IIIcnt s thaI ahound in st.: hool s in Switzerland.
'I ) \ isil had bec n \\ortll\\ hil c. Onn' again, I rt' SOhl' " to ht'gin
III ) \\ork \\ilh Iht· practi ca llhings, to lII<1kt' th(.':')(.' things big
and good <lnd \)('autiful. to makc thelll the :; t;'l rtill g l)Uilll of till' SPt'-
cifir forlll. lik,' a ma:-.lf'r builder \\ ho ullderstand., hi s 1lH'liN.
5 \t tilt' ag(' of ('ightc('n, \dlf'n I \\as approaching Ill<' ,'n(/ of Ill )
apprt'ntin'ship as a cahinf'tmaker. I mad I' my fir1'!t
pit'ces of furniture. The master cahint'llIIakn or th(' dient deter-
milwd the form of mo!' t of the furnitun' madl' in our shop. and I
s(, ldum lik"d it. I did not {,\l'n like Iht' \\ood \\{' used for tilt' besl
pi('("(':o,: \\alnui. I C'ho:.c light-colored ash for Iwd and (· upboard,
and I lIIadf" tlwlll so Ihat thl') looked good on all !'oides. \\ith til{'
l'oa llle \\oocl and the sa llie ('iln:.-ful \\ork hack anll front. I di srf"garded
th(' II sual pract ice of '-"Iwllding linll" and C;.Irf" on the back
hf' Ca ll Sf" no one ever sees it <l lIy\\<I) . AI long lal'o l I \\ <lio; ahlf' to round
off Ihe edges only slight!) wilhollt being running lhc
sa lldllaper swiftly and lighlly ovcr Ih(' Nlg,· ... 10 sofh'n Ih eir sharp-
ness wilhout losing the elcganr·(, and filH'Ilf"SS of tht' lines. I barely
lout.:hed the corncrs where thr('(' I'dgl's [II('('\. I fiuI-' d thc door of
Ihc cupboi.lrd into Ihe frame allhe frollt with a lIIaximum of prcci-
sion so Ihat it closed almost lH'rlll (, ti ca ll ), \\ill! a gc ntle frictional
and a han· ly audiblt' sound of air.
I ff"1t good working on thi s cupboard. \laking the prnisf" l) fit-
tingjoinls and f"xact shal)CS to form a \\ hol c, ;'l cOmplCIl' ohjf"C't that
('or r(' sponded to my inner vision. tri gger{' J in IlW ;,l stalf' of intense
cOIl(,f" ntration. and th e fini shed pi('c(' of furniturf" a fresh-
Ilf"SS to my environment.
6 The idca is Ihc 1'0110\\ ing: a long, narrow hlock of basalt sto ne
I'roj c(;ting a good tiJrc(' sto r(' ys oul of tllf' ground. The block is
hollowed oul on all sid('s until on I) a long lIIiddl(' rib and a numbe r
of IranSH'rse, horizontal rihs rrmain. SI'(' II ill l.:ross-sl'l'tion.
the imagined block no\\ looks lik" a gl'ol111' lri ca ltree or Ihl' 11'It('rT
\, illl Ilircl' horizontal a ohjl'ci 011 thl· outskirls of
tilt" Old '1'0\\11 . dark. hlal'k. lIIatt. gleaming - and at Ill('
limc tlw load hcaring and :-. pat ial :-. 1 ru(·tun' of a
building -. (·<1::t in dark stained lTlIlt'n\. \amish('d with
"tOIIf' oil. "ith surfacc..'s thaI feel lik ... paraffin \\ax. Door-:-. ized
opcnings in the ribs, simple holt,!'> in 1111"' stOlle. npose Ihl' sheer
lIIass of the material.
We hal1(II (' thi s Slon e sculpture with th e utmost (' arc. for ,' v,' n at
thi s stage it is alrp,uly almost tlw whole building. \y/p tiesign the
joints of Ih(' bO;.Ifds in \\ hi ch it is cast like a fine nel\\ork covering
allille surf;:J('cs "ith a rpgular patlt'rn. and W{' ilre l:<J rdulto rnsurp
that the joint s ari sing during Ih e seetion-\\i se casting of tlw ('on-
('fele \\ ill di sapprar into tlw net\\ork. The thin s({'cI franH' s Ilroj ect-
ing frolll til(' slon e like blades in the middl e of th e door arc intt-nd-
cd to hold 111(' wings of the doors, and lightwei ght glass and slw('t
Ilwtal pancls arp insc rted betwepn the sto ne consoles of till' floor
slahs so tliat th e inlf'rll1ediate spaces bClwef'n th(' ribs hnollw
rooms likt, glazed verandas.
Our client s arc of til{' opinion Ihat t1w careful way in which we
treal our 1lI3tcrinls, the way wc develop til{' joint s and tr;:nl sitions
from one ci ellwnl of th e building to Ihe other, and th e precision of
delailto "hidl Wf' aspire are all too elaborate. Thry want us 10 li se
more ('ommon compon ent s and constru ctions. tlwy do nol wanl liS
to make sll ch hi gh demands on the craftsme n and t('c hni cians who
are coll a borating with us: th ey want us to build more r heapl ),.
Wh en I think of the air of qualit y that til{' building could
evenlually (' Illanat e on its appointed site in fi\' e years or five dec-
ades. when I consider that 10 the people who will eneollntf'r it, the
only thing that will count is what they see, that whi l: h was finally
('o nstrul:led, I do not find it so hard to put up a rcsiSlanC(' to our
ciipnts' wi shes.
7 I r(,vi sited Ihe hall "ilh th e niche in the e nd wa ll thut Ilikefl so
lIIuch and \\hi ch I l r i , ~ d to t1 escrilH' earlier. I was no longer surp
"hether th £' Iloor oflhe ni ehe was rea ll y on a higher IpHI than til{'
rest of Ih(' hall. It was not. 'Jor was the diffe rence in bri ghtn ess
betwcen Ih(' niche and the hall as great as I re lll cmi>er(' d it , and
I was di silpl)oint('d b), Ih e dull light on th e wall panc ling.
Thi s diffcre nc(' betwcen tilf' rcalil y and my memuries did not
surpri s(' Illt'. I havp never been a good obser\'f'r, and I Il<Iv(' lI£'ver
rcally wanted to be. I likp absorbing moods, moving in spatial situa-
tions, and I am satisfied wh en I am ablf' to ret ain a feeling, a strong
ge neral impression from whidl I can latN extract delail s as from
a painting. and when I ca n wond('r wh,11 il \HI S that triggered thc
sc nse of prot ection. warmth. li ghtness or Sl)aciousness that has
st<lyt' d in my memory. Wh en I look bal: k likc this it scems impos-
sibl e to di stingui sh between archil ('(;ture and life. lH'twee n spatial
situations and the way I expericn(' c Ih em. Even when I concentrate
exclusively on the architecture and try 10 t1nde r::l land what I have
seen, Illy perception of it resonates in what I havc experienced and
thus colors what I have ohserved. J\1(,llIorips of similar ('X peri-
CIH.: es thrust their way in, too, and thus images of related architec-
tund situations overlap. The diffcrence in the floor level s of the
ni che and th e hall could well have e;\isted. Pcrhar' s it c\en did ex ist
once and was hlt er removed? Or. if it was ne\cr therc, perhaps it
should be added. as an improvclll f' nt to th e room?
No" I have fallen back into my role as ' HI ar('hitect , and I realize
onc(' morc how mu eh I enjoy working with myoid passions a nd
inwges. and how they help me 10 find whal I am looking for.
The body of architecture
1 I "as int (' rvi cwec/ by tlw curatoroftlw IllUSf'IIIll. 1I f' !rird to sOllnd
Ill e oul hy means of clever, un ex pected qu estions. \vhfll did I think
about IJrt' hit(' cturc, what was important to IlIf' abollt my work -
,hCSi' W('r(' the things he wanted to know. The tape r('('ordf'1" was
on. I did my 11('51. At til(' f'nd of the int e rview, I rl'i.liiz(·d that I was
not rcally sati sfi ed wilh my answers.
LaIN thut evening, I talked to a friend ubout Aki Kauri smiiki 's
latf' st film. I admire the director's eml)athy and rr s[l('(' t for hi s c har-
acters. lie <lo(' s nol keel} hi s actors on a leash: h(' doC' s not
tlwlIl to ('xprC' ss a conc('pt , but rath e r shows tlwm in a li ghllhat INS
us sense their di gnit y, anrl their secrets . Kaurismiiki 's a rt I('neis his
fi llll s a feeling of warmth, I told Illy colleague - and Ihe n I kllf'w
what it was I wou ld have lik('d to have sa id on the tape thi s Illorn-
ing. To build hOll ses like Kauri smaki makes films - that 's whut I
would 10 do.
2 '1'11(' h01f'1 in which I was staying was remodf'lf'd by a French stur
desiglwr whos(' work I do not know because I am not interested
in tr(' ndy dC's ign. Bul from thc mome nt I e nlerf'd Ill(' hOI ('I , the
<' Itrnosplrer(' {' rratC'd by hi s architecture bega n to tak{' (·ffcct. Artifi-
cial light illIJllIinat t' cI thr hall like a stage. Abundant. Imllt'd li ght.
Bright acc('llIs on the rt' ('eption desks, differl' lIt kinds of natural
stonC' in nidles in the wall. Pf'ople asccnding till' gra(,eful st aif\\HY
to Ihe e ncircling ga ll l'ry stood out against a shining gol de n wall.
Ahovc, Olle ('oult! sit in one of the dress circl (' buX('s oVl'rlooking
till' hall and IlI:lv(' a drink or a sna(·k. Tlwn' art' onl) good seats
II('fr . Chri slopher Alexander, who speaks in " palt('fn languagt:- of
SIHllial situations in whit'h people inSlillcti\t'l) good, \\ould
11 ,1\(' been pleast·d. I sat ill a bo'\ til(' hall , a 1) p('(' 1310r.
f('ding that I \\3S part of til(' St'l. I lih·d looking
d O\\11 on Ih f' aCli\it )' helm\ "hert' propl(' ('<1111{' ilnd "cnt, e nte red
and .,' xilcd. I felt I unde rstood \\ h) til(' iJr(' hit f'd
3 She had S,'(,II if small house b) Frallk Lloyd \\ right th at made a
gn'at impressioll 011 her. said II . It s rooms "t're so slllall anrl inti-
111<11 (' , th eir ('(' ilings so 10\\. There W<lS a lill) library with special
I ighl i ng a nd a lot of d('('oral iv(' a rdl il ('('I ural (' Iemellt s, and t h(' whole
110115(' Ilwrh' a stro ng horizonta l impression which she had never
cxpf'rif'necd befor('. Th(' o ld lady was still living tlH'rc. There was
110 need for me to go and sec the house, I thought. I klww jusl what
she mea nt, and I knew the feel ing of " holllf' '' Ihat sht' described.
4 IlI c mb('rs of the jury wt're shown buildings by architects
co mpe ting for a n architectural a\\ard. studied the docume nts
dcscribing a small red house in a rura l selling, .1 barn converted
inlo a d\\ C' lIing whi c h had Iwen c nlarg(' d by th e architect and the
inhabitant s. 'I'll(' extension was a suc('(' ss, I thought. Although you
('o uld srt' what had bCC'Il donI' to Ih(' house be nca th th e saddl e
roof, Ihe changl' was w('lI-mode led and integrated. 'I'll(' window
o penings werr s('nsi-tive ly (>Ia('('d. Thf' o ld and the new were bal-
anced and harmonious. Tht' n('w parts of thr hou se did nol see m to
be saying " I am new, " but rathe r " I alll pari of Ihe nf'W whole."
J\othing spectacular or innovativc. nothing strikillg. BasC'd prrhaps
on a so IlI C \\ hat outdate{1 dcsign prim·iplc. all o ld - fa shioned
approach attuned to craftsllIanship. \\ c agr(' ('r/ that \\f' could not
a\\;:rrd thi s conversion a pri zl' for tl l'sign - for that its architectural
cl;:rims \\ere too modest. Yet I (' ujoy thinking ba ck on the small red
hOll !,C'.
5 III a book about tilllbN constru ct ion . III ) attention was caught
h) photographs of hugf' areas of closel) pack('d tn'e trunks floating
011 \\ide cxpanses of \\ater. I al so liked th(' picturf' 0 11 tiH' CO\f'r of
till' book, a collage of lengths of wood arranged in laye rs like a cross
scdioll. The nUlllerous photos of woodf'1l iluildings, despite tile fat't
that they \\ere ar('ilitf'dUrally commendable, \\LTe less appealing.
I huH' not hllilt \woelf'1l houses for a long time.
A )ollng collf' aguf' askcd me how I \,ould go about building a
how, f' of wood after \\orking for sOlli e )cars \\ ilh stone and con-
nrtf' , steel and glass. At once, I had a IlH' ntal image of a hollSf'-
sized block of solid timiJer, a dense llJa<i (' of til(' hiological
substance of wood, hori zo ntall y layf'rNI and prf'('i sely hollowf' d
out. A howl(' like thi s \\0,11<1 changf' its s hapt'. ,\ould swell and
('onLnH't, f'xpand and ck(Tcl]se in height, a ph<.'nulll cnon that \\ould
havf' Lo Ilf' an integral pari of the design. \1 ) )oung co ll eague lold
Ill f' that in Spani sh, hi s mothe r tongue, tll(' words \\Ood , rnotlwr
and mat e rial were simil;H: "madera," " Illildrf' ," " materia. " Wf'
started tal ki ng about t he sensuou s qualit ics and ('II it II ra I signi fi ca ncf'
of tht, clemental mat eria ls of \\ood ami stOllf'. and about how \\e
t'oultl express the::,c in 0111' huildings.
6 C('nlral Park SOlllh , Nf'\\ 'ork, a hall on Ihe floor. It \\as
t' vf'ning. Beforf' 1Ilf' , framed by the soaring, shining. slony city, lay
th e- huge wooded rf'ctang-ie of the park. Creat l: ities are based on
gre-at. df'ar. well-ord('red concepts, I th ought. The r(, ctangular
paltnn of the streets. the tliagonal lint' of Broad\\a) , tllf' coastal
lines of tile peninsula . Tilt, buildings. packed dt'IH,{' I) in their right -
angled grid, loollling lip in Ihe sky, indi\iduali sti(" in love \\ith
Ihl'IIi SelV(' S, <lllonyrnoli s. r('f'kless, tamf'd hy thf' straitjal'kcl of thf'
grid .
7 Tlw for mer to\\niloll l':o (' looked somc\\hilt in the I,ark- likt ,
It was til{' onl ) huilding in thaI part of til(' to\\11 10
survi ved Ihl' d(' stru ctioll ofthl' 5l'('o nd \Xorld \'('ar. Pr(' \iousiy use{1
as an {' Illhassy. it was no\\ hf'ing cnlarged by a third of it s original
siu <It' {'o rding to the plans of a t'o lllpet e nt archit('cl. I-lard and self-
asslIrf'd , til e ex t(' nsion stood sidl' h) sid(' with the old building; on
th e one hand a Ilf'wn stOIlt.' basI', stu('co facades and lJalustrades, on
the otll{'r <I compressed rno(krn allll('X made of exposNI {'oncrctc,
a rt' slrain NI. di sciplined \'0111111(' , which 10 tIl{' old main
building \\hilf' maintaining a (Ii :o. lin et, dialogi(' di ::, tant ·{' in terms of
it s design.
I found thillking a hout Ihl' old castif' in my \ ilhlg(" It has
been a!tcrt'd and extended many tillles OVf'r the centuries, df'Vf,lop-
in g gnuJllall y from a clusler of fr('('- standing building:-l into a dosed
cOlnplex \\ith an inne r courtyard. A nl'\' archit('{'tural whole
e merged at {,<14'h stage of Hi stori('ill incongruities
\\ere not ar(,hitecturally reco rded . The old \\as adap(('J to lile lle\\ ,
or the nc w to the old, in tlw intt'rcs t of thc complete. integrated
appearancc of it s latesl stag{' of cvolution. Onl y whell Olll' anal yzes
Ihe suhstancI' of the \\all s, strips them oftllf'ir plast e r and
tllf'ir j oi nt s do these old huiltlings r('\('al their eompl(·, g{' IH"sis.
8 I f'ntercd the exhibition pm ili o n. Once again. I \\ a:o. confronted
hy siopill g \\<ll1s. slanted plan{'!'), surfa{'cs linked 10010('11' and play-
full y Loget hf'r, battens and 1'01)('5 hanging, lealling, floating or pull-
ing, taut or project ing. The composition di sclaimed tlw right-angle
and sought a n informal balancf'. The art'hil('cIUrf' mad e a d) narnic
illlpr(' l':os ion. symboli zing mO\ f' U1l'lIt. It s gesturf' s fill ed the mailable
spa('{'. \\<lnting to be look(' d at. to make their mark. Thf'rf' was
hardl y any room left for Illf' . I follo\\l'd Ihe winding path indiealed
hy till' arl'hill'dure.
In tile II t'xl pavilion I IIlt' t with tllf' spacious d('g;'IIH'f' of thl' Bra -
zilian lIliistn's lint'S a nd forms. again. III) interesl
\UIS ulpt urNI b) the large room.., and tilt' oftbl' out-
dour !:o P,H'{':,> in the photos of hi s \\ork.
9 \.Iold lI1e Ihal sllf' had man) lall OOt' d '\OO1en on till' beach
of a small M,.- aside resort ill Ihe '"Cinqu(' Terru" region , i.I holida)
dcstination visited mainly hy Ita lians. TIH' wOlllen underline the
indi, idual;t ) of their hodies. use thelll to F)roclaim thl·ir
The horl ) as'1 rduge in a "orld ,\ hidt \\ould appear to Iw nooded
b) artificia l signs of and in whieh philoso phers pondt'r on virt-
ual realit y.
The human hody as an obj('('t of ('Ollh.'lIlpOrar) a .. t. Su rH'Ys,
di sdo::> un' :o. Ihilt seek kno\\INlg{'. or tlu' human hod) il:o. OJ feli sh of
sdf-assntion which can only slI('(' eed wlH'n looked at in the mirror
or Sl'l'll through the cyt's of ot hers!
Thi s autumn. I visitl'rI thr- roolll wi th th l' f'xhibition of ('ontf' ln-
porary ardtitntural projt.oe ts frolll FralU'(,. 1 saw shining objects
made of glass, gf'nt le shapes, \\ilhollt l'dgt's, ' Iilut, ('Iegan t ('urves
rounding off the geoll1 elril'al vo lumes of the ohject s ilt specific
points. 'l'lwir lines remindC'd n1(' of HOllin' s dr;:mings of nullt,s and
endO\\ cd the objects "ith the (Iualit y of Archite('tu .. al
model s. Model s. Beautiful bodies, celebr;.lIions of surface lexture,
skin , l1('rrll etic and embracing tilt' hodies.
10 A glass purtition di\ic/,'d up th e length of thc narro\\ co rridor of
the old hOlel. The wing of a door below. a firmly fixed PiJlW of glass
above, no fnw1(' , the panes damped and Iwlt! at the conwrs hy t\\O
metal clasps. Norma ll ) tlon('. nothing sl)ecia l. nol a
design b) an architect. But I lik{'d the door.
Was it h('eause of Ihe proportions of the two l)al1('s of glass. the
form and position of lite clamps, tht, gleami ng of the glass in th{'
muted ('olors of tile dark ('orridor. or \\a8 il hr-('ause the upper I)an{'
of glass. "hidl \\as thall tht, .. ,erage-height swing door Iwlow
it, emphasizcd hl'ighl of the corridort I did not know.
11 I \\3:0. some photographs of a ("olllplil'at ed huilfling. Dif-
planes, <lnd \ollimes seenwd to oH·r lap. slanting: and
('recl, ellt'il l,stllaled OIl(' "ithin Ihe oll1('r. The building. \\holSe unu-
sual apP(· 'JrHIH.'C gaH' Illi' no ,,\(oar indil:<ttion as to il " funr'tion.
made a .... trangel) o'r'riomll'd and tortured impression. SonH'how. it
se('med I\\o-dinl£'nsional. For I mo 1lJ(' lit I thought I \\ a:o. looki ng at
a photognlf)h of a I:ardhoard paint l' d. Later.
,,11('n I Il'arllNlthe ltallll' of Iht: archit(,( ,t, I \\as shock.' d. Ilad I
mad e 1.1 a pre maturl' , ignorant jlltlgnl('nt'? Thl' ar('hitC'('t's
name has all intl'rnationa l ring. hi s lilH' a rchit('('tural drawings are
\\ell kilO" 11 . and hi s \\ .. ill(' n ::> t'lt('I11('nts aboul conlelllpOrHr) an'hi-
lecture, \,hi elt al so d('al "ilh philosophical themes, "idcly
publi shed .
12 ,\ to\,nholi se in \tlilhallan \\ilh a good address, just ('om-
piNed. 'I'll(' Il£' \\ fac<I(k in th,' line of til£' street of huildings stood
out di stinetly, In the photographs. tl1(' natural shit· lr!. sur-
rounded b) glass, looked like a backdrop. In rea lity, the was
more uniform, lIIore integrated in its surroundings. '1 ) instinct to
eriticiz(' vanished wlwn I entered the hOll st'. Thc qualit ) of it s con-
struction (· aptu .. ed my aILcntion. The i1rchil('('t receivt'd li S, look us
into the ,eslibule. and sho\\ (' d us from room to rool11. The rooms
,\ere spacious, their order logica l. We " crt:' {'ager to {'aeh suc-
(;('eding rOOIll . and we "('1' (' not di sa ppointed, The qualit y of the
daylight ellt('ring through the glazed "{'ar fa cade and a skylight
o\{'r the slairs "as pleasant. On all tlw floors. the prf' s(' nt·c of the
intimat e back ya rd around \\ hidt til(' Irwin rooms \\cre groul)ed
was pereCI)\ibl e, even at the heart of tht' building.
The architect spokf' in n' slJ('l'tful , amicabl(' !('rms of tlH' ('Iients,
the nc" I) inst alled re!' ici{,IHS. of their und erstanding of hi s work.
of hi s dforts to l'omp l)' "itll tlwir requirenwnts. and oftht' ir criti-
cislll or sOlli e impracti ca l aspects which he subsequentl y improvcd.
li e 0pf'lwd t"llpboard doors, lowered the large serim hlinds, which
suffused Ihl' li ving room" ith u Inell(1\\ li ght . sho\\ cd us folding
partitions, and (lemonstr31('d hugl' !ming doors Ihat mo\(,,1 noi se-
less ly l)('t\\ ('c lI 1\\0 pi vots, d osing ti ghtl y and precise ly. EH· r) now
and tll(.' II , he tout hed til(' sur faee of so mc llIaterial. o r ran hi :5 hands
ovcr il ha ndrail , a joi nt in the wood, the (' dg(' 0 1' ;:1 glass pa ll (·.
13 'I'll<' to\\n I " as visiting had a I)arti cul arl y att rar li\(' neighho r-
hood. Buildi ngs fro m th e 19th ce nt ury and til(' turn of t1H' ('(· ntur) .
solid volumes 1,l act e! ;:do ng th c slr('f' ts and s(Jl wres, tOIi Mru Cled of
slonc alltl bri ck. Nothing f'xcf' pti onal. Typi call y urba n. '1'11 (, publi c
premi ses on th e 10wI' r fl oors facf'd til(' road, th e dw(· llings and of-
fitTS .. bow' retrf'a ted Iwhind protective facades, hitlill g pri vat (·
sph el'(, 5 hr hind prf'sli gioIJs fa ces, anonymous faccs, clearl y divorc-
('d fr om tlw puhli c space whi eh began with a hard al til(' 1'001
of the facades.
I had bee n told thaI a numbe r of archit ccts li vf'd a nd \\orked in
thi s neighbo rh ood. I re membered th is a few days later whe n I was
looking at ..1 Il l' \\ neighho rhood nea rhy. design cd hy well-known
archit ects. and I found Ill ) sclf thinking about the unequi \oca l
backs ..wd fro nt s of the urhan stru ctures, the precisely arti cul ated
publi e sl)ac(,5, til(' grar iously restrained facades and exactl y fitting
voluInes for th l' hody of the town .
14 WI' spent years dev<.·loping the com:c pt , th e form, and the wo rk-
ing drawings of Ollr stonc- built thc rn .... I baths. Thcll constructi on
I was standing in front of o nc of the fir st bl oeks that th l'
nwso ns had built in sto ne fro m <l nearb) quarry. I \\as suq}ri sed
a nd irrit ated. A It hough (' v(' ryt h i ng co rrespo ndf' d (,xartl ) \\ it h 0 11 I'
pl ans. I had not eXlwt-tf'(1 Ihi s con(' urrf' nt hardncss a nd softness,
thi s smooth )<' t rugged qu alit y, th is iridesce nt gray-gree n prcsc l1(:c
f' manali ng fro m th e squ are sto ne bl ocks. Fo r a moment , I had th e
fc{' li ng Ih at our project had escaped us and be('o nl l' ind(,' pcnd cnt
hcca ust· it had {'\'ol\ ed into a mate rial e nt ity tlwl ol)(' )'cd it s own

15 I \i l'i ited all ('xllibition of \\ork hy i\lf'rf'l OPI)('nlwim at tilt'
Cuggf'nlwirn \lus(' ulll. The techniques she uses an' slrikingl)
\arit'd. Tlwn' is no continuous, consist __'nt sl) Ie. \c'Hrtht· lt·ss,
I e)'perit'IH,t'd Iwr \\a) of thinking, lIer \\0.1) uf luoking at till' \\orld
alill of illtt'rHllilig in it through hef \\ork as coh(,rent <Inti
50 1I1t'n' i.-: probabl y no point in \\ondefingjuii l what it is Ihat
11](, famous fur ('UP and the snake mad(' up of of
coal. Didn 't i\!.'fl't 0PIH'lIheim OIH'C say thaI ('\('ry idt'a llC'cfi:-. its
proper 1'01'111 to lit' (,ffnliv(,'!
Teaching architecture, learning
'oung pt'ople go 10 with tlH' aim of hecoming ardlil('cls.
of finding oul if Ih(') h<l\e gol \\ hal it \\ hal ii'! the first thing
\\1' should teach
First of all. w(' Illust f'xplain 111<11 the person stant/ing- in front of
!lwIII is not somf'OIH' "ho asks fI"f' Slions whOSt' an"'w('rs he already
knows, Practicing architecturf' is OIWSt· It' qUf' stion.\', finding
olle's 0\\11 answers wi th the heir' of tlie ({,;.!Chcr, \\hiltling down ,
finding solutions. O\('r <Hal ovcr again.
The strength of a good design licl:'l ill ourl:'leht's and in our ability
10 pf'rcei\e the \\orld" ilh both elllotion <lnd good architec-
tural dcsign is Sf'nsuous. A good architectural dCl:oign is intelligent.
\X'f' all cxperience ar('hit('('turf' heforr \,(' hil\(' l'\('11 heard the
\\onl. Thc roots of architf'('tural undf'rstanciing lir in our art'hitec-
tural ex pericnce: our room, our hou!'('. our sl rcet , our village, our
tOWII, our landscar}C - we exp('rie IH'e them all earl) OIL un('on-
sc ioll sl) , alld wc subsequenliy compar(' thelll wilh the (,ountrysidc,
towns and houses that we l''''perielll'l' lat ef on, Thc roots of our
understanding of archit(,(,turc lie in our ehi ltJhood, in our youth;
thcy li c in OlJr biograph), have 10 Itarn 10 \\ork con-
sciously with their personal hiographical e:\. I)('riellccs uf arehit('c-
tur('. Thcir allotted tasks are dc\i sed to s('( this pro('(' 55 in motion.
\\ e ma) wonder what it was that \\(' likNI about thi s hOll se, thi s
10"11. \\hilt it \\as that impressed and lotwlwd liS - ami \\h), What
\\as til(' roolll like, the square. \\h al did it r('all ) look like. "hal
smcll was in the air. \\ hat did TI'l) foot steps sound likf' in it, and my
\oif'c, how did thc noor fee l under Ill y ft,(,t, lite door handle in my
hand, hm\ did tlw li ghl strike til(' fal"-ttll's, "hal \UIS the shinc on
1I1l' \\<1115 likf" ! Was tllNt:' a fecling of narro\HI CSS or \\idth. of inti-
lIl :'u') or \'ast lU' ss?
\\oocien floors like lighl IIlcmbranes, hem) l'o lon e mass('s, soft
li'xtilt's, poli shcd granite, pliable leal her, ruw i:i t ecl , poli shf'd
mahogu ny, {'I' ),s tallillt.: glafoos, so ft asphalt wal'nl{'t! by Ihc sun ... the
:'1I'4..'hiICC" S material s. our material s. W(' know 111('111 all. And yt"
\\e do not kno\\ th el11 . In order to dcsign. to 111\('111 architecture, \\{'
learn to handle thel1l \\ith a\\arf'ness. Thi s is r(' search; thi :,
is the work of n·llIcmlwrilig.
Architecturc is always con{'l'('te matter. Ardlitecturc is 1101
abst ract , but com;rcte. A plan, a project drawn on (laper is 1101 al'('hi-
I{'cturc hut merely a ilion,' or less inadequate rcpfl' scntation of
arthit('cture. comparablc to sheet music. necds to be per-
fOl'llwd. IW('cls to bc cxecuted. The n it s hody ca n COIll L'
into being. And thi s body is ah\ays se nsuous.
All dt' sign work start s fromllw premi se of thi s physica l, ohjecli"f'
se ll suou sness of architeclur{' , of its matNial s. To ('xpericnce al'('hi-
t('cturc in a concrete wa) Ill('ans to touch, sec, hear, and slllcli it.
To di scO\er and consciotl sl) work with Ihesf' qllalities - tlwse are
the th elllf' s of our tcaching.
All the design \\ork in the st udio is don e \\ith material s. It always
aims direct l), at co ncr('t c things, objf'('ls, installations made of real
matcrial (clay, stonc, ('opp1.'r. stf'pl , felt , doth. wood, plaster,
bri(·k ... ). Tht'r(' are no 1;<'lf(lboard model s. Adually, no --models" al
all in Ihc t'oll\pntional s('nSf·. but connett' ohjcct s.
siollal \\orks 011 a spct: ifie scalf'.
Thc drawing of st:alc plans a lso bcgins \\ith the t:HIlt:ff'te objet:! ,
tllll s r(,vcrsing th e onlcr of " id ea - plun - (,OI1('rl.'le object " which is
:sta ndard pradiec in professio llal archilf'('!lIrl'. Firii t th e concrcte
objccls are construC1f'd: thclI th c-) arc drawn 10 S(·a lf'.
\\ e imagf's of \\orks of architpcturt' b) "hich we have becn
influenced arollnd "ith us. Wf' can re-ilHokt' lIwse illlugc-s in our
mind's c)e and re-exa mill(' th(,lll. But thi s not )'I't makc a ne\\
design, n('" archit ect ure. EH'r) design needs 11('\\ illliJg:es. Our
-'old" imag('s can only hell) us to filld new ones.
Thinking in images \\hcll designing is alw<.1Ys dir('(:tNI towards
the who le. By it s very nature, thc imagc is always the whole of the
imagined realit),: wall and floor, (·riling and material s, til(' moods of
light and color of a room, for (·x<.ul1p lf'. And we also sec all the
detail s of Ih e transitions frolll the floor to the \\all and from the
wall 10 the window, as if " c \\crc "at(' hing a film.
Often however, they are nol si mpl y there, these visual el('ments
of th e image, when we start on <I df' sign and try to form an image of
th e desi rctl ohject. At the hegi nn ing of t he design prot:l'ss, I hc i muge
is usuall y inco mpl ete. So w(' try repeatedly to re-articulate and
clarify our themc, to add th e missing parts to our imagined pi clUre.
Or, to pUI it another way: \\e design. The concrete, sc nsuous qual-
it y of Ollr inne r image hell}:;; li S he re. It helps li S not to get lost in
arid, ahstract th eo retical assumptions; it heil}S li S not to lose track
of thc cOllcretc qualities of art:hitecture. It helps us not to fall in
love with the graphit: quality of our drawings and to con fu se it with
rea l architectural quality.
Producing inn er images is a nat ural process co mmon to t'veryone.
It is part of thinking. Associativc, wild, free , ordered a nd systematic
thinking in images, in archikclura l, spatial, colorful and scnsuous
pictures - thi s is Ill)' favorit(' cldinition of design.
A way of looking at things
lecture, written November 1988, SCI-ARC Southern California Institute
of Architecture, Santa Monica
The hard core of beauty
lecture, written December 1991, Symposium Pi ran, Slovenia
From passion for things to the things themselves
lecture, written August 1994, Alvar Aalta Symposium,
of the Essential," Jyv8skylii, Finland
The body of architecture
lecture, written October 1996, Symposium "Form Follows Anything,"
Teaching architecture, learning architecture
Written September 1996, Accademia di afchitettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland
Peter Zumthor
1913 Born in Base l
19SH Trained as a cabinf'tmak(,f
KUll stgewerbeschulc Bas('l , trainrd a!'l a de::o iglll'l"
1966 Prall In stitute, New York , \isiting slufi(,l1t in ar(' iJit('Clure
and design
Architect in the 1)('1'<11"11111'111 for till' Pn'sl'natioll of
MOllulllellt s, Canlon of Gn.lllbiindt'n, 5wil,wrland
L('('t U 1'('1', liniv('rsity of Zurich, on Ih(' and
maintenance of vernacular townSf'apl'S
1979 Own pradit.:e, I-Ialdenstein. Crallhiind('n
1988 \ ' isiting professo r, SCI-AIl C Southern C.diforni a
Instill/It' of Art·hiled ure, 5.1 111 .1 \loni('a
1989 Vi siting: professor, TcdHli sl·he L niH' rsil iit , \lunidl
\'\'orkshop, Graz SUlllmer School , \lI stria
199 t Fello\\. Akadt'llli (' df'r Kiinsl t', Bnlin
1996 HonoraI' ) memher, Buml 1)(, 1I1 5t'iwr Ar('hilt'kl(,ll , BDA,
1996 - Professor at the Accacif'mia di archil/,tlllra , lIniversil u
della Svizzl'ra Italiana, Mt' n<lri sio
1999 Kenzo 'range Visiting Professor of Archih'cllirr. (;raduatf'
SdlOOI of Des ign . llarvard Lniwrsit)
Peter Zumthor
Thinking Architecture
Translation: Maureen Oberli-Turner
Editorial assistance: Catherine Schelbert
Design: lars Muller
after a concept by Hannele Gronlund
Typography: Atelier lars Muller
Typefaces: Berthold Bodoni and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk
Photographs: Helene Binet
Photolithos: Ast & Jakob AG, Koniz
Printing: Konkordia Druck GmbH, Buhl
Binding: Buchbinderei Spinner, Ottersweier
Paper: Z- Opak W, 100 g/m2
This book is also available in a german language edition (ISBN 3-7643-6100-X).
By the same publisher:
Peter Zumthor Works. Buildings and Projects 1979-1997 (ISBN 3- 7643-6099-2),
Peter Zumthor Hauser. 1979-1997 (ISBN 3· 7643·6098·4).
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the library of Congress,
Washington D.C., USA.
Deutsche Bibliothek Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Zumthor, Peter:
Thinking architecture I Peter Zumthor. [Trans!.: Maureen Oberli·Turner.
Photogr.: Helene Binetl - Basel ; Boston : Berlin : Birkhauser, 1999
Ot. Ausg. u.d.T.: Zumthor, Peter: Architektur denken
ISBN 3-7643·6101 ·8 (Basel .. .)
ISBN 0-8176-6101 -8 (Boston)
This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of
the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, re-use of
illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in other ways,
and storage in data banks.
For any kind of use, permission of the copyright owner must be obtained.
licence edition with the kind permission of lars Muller Publishers, P.O. Box 912,
CH· 5401 Baden
c 1998 Peter Zumthor and lars Muller Publishers
C for the licence edition 1999 Birkhauser - Publishers for Architecture,
P.O. Box 133, CH-4010 Basel , Switzerland
Printed on acid-free paper produced from chlorine-free pulp. TCF r
Printed in Germany
ISBN 3-7643·6101 ·8
ISBN 0-8176-6101 -8

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