A test on Peter Zumthor | Santiago Carvajal

Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor

Born in 1943 in Basle (Switzerland), he was formed as cabinet-maker, designer and architect in the Kunstgewerbeschule of Basle and in the Pratt Institute of New York. From 1979 it has his own office in Haldenstein, Switzerland; and he is a teacher in the Accademia I gave Architettura de la Università della Svizzera Italiana in Mendrisio. Peter Zumthor gains the prize Pritzker in the year 2009 considered by many as the prize Nóbel in architecture.

The following text treats on the legacy of this visionary teacher, who with his work and thought, uses as inspiration and indexes a generation of designers and architects. We will check three key projects that will allow us to see his way of thinking and projecting: The Thermal baths of Waltz (1996), his most recognized project worldwide; the House Zumthor (2005), own housing of the architect where it is possible to distinguish his more deep aspirations as architect and as user; and the Chapel Bruder Klaus (2007), where construction, space and form, they are synthesized in a small religious project.

On his ethics of work, Zumthor comments that he tries to be a public inspector with it same, doing what seems to him likely; he chooses his projects and prefers doing them if sense is that really they make from the human point of view. He is interested in the houses, not neither his career nor the money, it wants to do houses in special places and in special situations. For Zumthor, the projects need a time to rest (something that the writers and the musicians know well), a time to have a new perspective, only then estimates the good thing and the bad thing, it is a process of ripeness.

“Nobody can give me orders, for me, commitment is a stupid word. The dialog to find an intelligent solution is always possible, something that would not work if anybody wants to use my name or to gain a lot of short-term money, I need responsibility.” 1

The cabinet-maker and the matter

To understand the genius of his work, we must deal his beginnings, his first formation: Zumthor realizes his studies as cabinet-maker from 1958 until 1962, from then his method of work is that of a carpenter who selects, prepares, sands, the wood manipulates and works; all I sue this one across an extraordinary combination between tact and sight. Assemble them between pieces they are given then, and only after having touched and prepared the materials. This union of materials, thought as an act of construction, is what brings us over to the definition of what is an architecture for Mies van der Rohe, one of the modern architects important mas of the 20th century.

“The architecture begins on having placed carefully a brick next to other one”.

On form and construction

This fascination for the matter, is the one that leads that his works are not thought so much by his form, but rather by his raw material and his unions, and of since across the careful revenue of the light, one believes a careful atmosphere. It is for this reason that his architecture seems to be thought to touch it with the hands and the eyes. The exercise that it does with his students, is not so much on the form, comomuchas persons would think; varied times the architecture also is sensory, ocomo he prefers describing it: it is how the architecture sounds, sometimes how it smells, how he feels, definitively how it is the atmosphere; understood the latter as everything of what is constituted a project. For this motive, the exercise with his students is called the house without form; where his disciples center in todoslos aspects that are not form, aspects like memory, place, good use, construction, materials, combinations of materials, between others. For Zumthor, when you do this correctly, the form does his appearance.

Experience and memory

His architecture is thought as a sensory complete experience, that is to say, the sound that the materials, his perception produce to the tact, his aromas, his reflections to the light, etc. It is for this, which the own architect prefers who, instead of looking at his works across photographies, is visited physically, in order to have a real sensory experience of these.

His architecture is rational, is sensory, his architecture mixes feeling and reason. In the process of his projects Zumthor it tries to make the experienced experiences conscious, already from child, of the world and of the architecture; because the architecture is more than at all memory. We all have experienced architecture before at least of being you consent of them presence of her, before at least of studying it; it is for it, the vital importance of recognizing the experiences creating interior images of good or bad architectures, in order to emulate them or to avoid them. Every day we attend city, people, landscape, architecture.

Termas de Vals
Thermal baths in Vals, Peter Zumthor, 1993-96 | Source: Wikipedia

Thermal baths in Vals

Placed in a valley surrounded with a forest of pines, of a sobriety and admirable simplicity, the elimination of the superfluous thing, so much to visual as auditory level, they do of this one, a space for the rest, an environment in the one that is really possible to be disconnected of noises, holidays, summers songs. It is like that, for that in this space, attached business to the hotel of the same name, Zumthor asked expressly that clocks should not be placed on his walls, since the omnipresent clocks would remember the daily trajín to his users; in his place, he designed a few discreet clocks realized with vertical pipes of copper. The place was done to rest.

The principal area is divided in several thermal swimming pools by own characteristics: interior swimming pool to 32ºC, exterior winter swimming pool to 36ºC, summer swimming pool to 30ºC, the bath of fire to 42ºC and the bath of ice to 14ºC. Walls and floors are realized from basic materials as the cuarcita of Waltz, extracted from mines of the region. Thin striping along the spaces bathe of zenithal low light the walls of stone, this effect is achieved thanks to the structural system where the slabs of level sky do not touch the lateral walls, giving the effect of which these heavy slabs were floating on the corridors and the swimming pools.

“I think that the human efforts can create a work, one novelizes a poem or a quartet of rope, when it goes out well it forms a world separate, a cosmos, and this believe a particular compression, a vision, an emotion that is a totality; I enter there when I desire it, since in a good movie, enter a specific world that takes the fingerprint of someone who has invented, thought and felt all that for me; it is a beautiful definition of the architecture when it leaves us at liberty.” 2

Estudio Zumthor, Haldenstein, Cantón de los Grisones, Suiza, 1986
Zumthor Study, Haldenstein, Grisones Canton, Switzerland, 1986 | planosdecasas.net

Zumthor House

As Alvar Aalto and other teachers of the architecture, Zumthor designs his house with his office inside her, as a magnificent alliance between rest and work; this way, the heart of his house is his office.

For this architect, life and work estánfuertemente interlaced, as if the work was a way of life.

The house is constructed about a court where 13 Maples grow; this one is a place to see from the interior towards the exterior and from the exterior towards the interior. The south wing shelters the housing and the office, the wing west a space of meetings, finally the north this wing destined as the area of work of his collaborators.

From the window of his office the opposite wing is observed, where his equipment of work is; the sight is tinted by the vegetation of the garden by his games of light and movement of the glasses of the trees. The north wing, it joins with Zumthor’s office across a space with a great table for meetings that it looks at the garden.

The kitchen, to be and the study they are spaces to double height, which they confirm with the spaces of an alone height. The this house thought as a game of spaces to double height that they control themselves and expand as we walk, suddenly to be opened for the exterior landscape.

Capilla Bruder Klaus, Peter Zumthor, 2007 | Fuente: wikiarquitectura
Capilla Bruder Klaus Chapel, Peter Zumthor, 2007 | Fuente: wikiarquitectura

Bruder Klaus Chapel

Placed in the middle of the field, this building is an example of how the constructive process determines the form of the project, taking her to unsuspected results. The chapel is constructed by a pair of peasants in honor the brother Klaus, holy boss of the catholic peasants.

The constructive process is the following one: some arrange 112 trunks of pines of variable lengths piled up against others in vertical sense. On the outside vertical chests are placed. The concrete tinturado is founded on 24 sections or tongadas of 50 centimeters, equivalent to 24 days of work, which does that from the exterior the visual result they are these 24 horizontal striping of every section. Once reached the resistance of the concrete, from the interior and for three weeks, there are burned 112 trunks that in a beginning used as interior chest; the smoke is expelled by a top opening. The obtained product, it is the negative of estostroncos, a surface texturada for concave forms colored by the black of the coal and the smoke, aromatized by the ritual of burning these trunks of wood.

As result, the interior is a mysterious and cozy space, as if it was a question of a cavern bathed by a secret zenithal light, is a space for the concentration and the meditation. Widthways of the walls of concrete a few circular hollows are left, in a beginning in order that elviento that blows inside generates a sound similar to a wind organ; ultimately, it turned out that these openings were generating unbearable draughts inside the chapel; to correct this, secolocaron glass stoppers and they provide a starry aspect of points of natural light that cross the great thickness of the wall.

From far there is perceived a vertical element of regular forms that contrasts with the horizontalidad of this calm landscape.

In his conference written in November, 1988 and given in the Southern California Institute of Architecture, California, the USA. Zumthor leaves these lessons us on what the Architecture is for him, which he wishes of his projects, and as the same work it is his source of inspiration.

“To construct a building of a clear and logical form is necessary to do a project that follows rational and objective criteria. The project process is based on a continuous joint game of feeling and reason. On the one hand, the feelings, the preferences, the nostalgias and the desires that emerge and that want to receive form must examine by means of a critical reason. Of other one, the feeling says to us if the abstract reflections agree between if” . 3

“To project means to deal and to order, largely. But I think that the genuine nuclear substance of the architecture for that we look arises across the emotion and the inspiration. The precious moments of inspiration appear in the course of a patient work. With an interior image that, suddenly, does his appearance, with a new outline in the drawing, new form seems from him to transform and to receive in fractions of second the totality of I build projected. It is as if, of sudden, one was experiencing the effect of a strange drug: everything what it knew a bit before brings over of the object to creating appears under a new and clear light. And I sit happiness and passion, and there is something in my that seems to say: This one is the house that I want to construct!” 4

Santiago Carvajal. architect
Cuenca (Ecuador). november 2014

Notas:

1. Peter Zumpthor

2Movie Thermal baths in Vals, Richard Copans

3. Zumthor, Peter. Thinking the architecture. Publishing Gustavo Gili, SL. Barcelona, Spain. The second extended edition. Conference written in November, 1988 and given in the Southern. California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC), Santa Mónica, California, EE UU.

4. Zumthor, Peter. Thinking the architecture. Publishing Gustavo Gili, SL. Barcelona, Spain. The second extended edition. Conference written in November, 1988 and given in the Southern. California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC), Santa Mónica, California, EE UU.

Santiago Carvajal Ochoa

Magister en Proyectos Arquitectónicos. Profesor de la Universidad del Azuay, Cuenca Ecuador. Experto en el uso de herramientas BIM + CAD (ArchiCAD con dos licencias de uso) para desarrollo de diseño y documentación de proyectos, cursos impartidos en Cuenca, Quito y Guayaquil.

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