16: Thinking Architecture



Memories like these contain the deepest architectural experience that I know - Peter Zumthor

Buildings that have a strong impact always convey an intense feeling of their spatial quality. They embrace the mysterious void called space in a special way and make it vibrate - Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor's Thinking Architecture is a quiet, unassuming book, just as Peter's architecture, a collection of well-grounded, serene and sophisticated statements of tectonic realness emanating from the imprints of memories on his decalogue of intuitions.
The writer, secluded in the Swiss mountains, is a sensible narrator with great vigor of mind unencumbered by modern life, yearning for the real whether it is in nature, sculpture or literature. A humanist with a gift for a detailed recollection of mental images that are now used as inspiration. 
Similarly troubled and invigorated by the constant memories of the past, Thinking architecture is a melancholic tale of the sensual impressions of materials, observations on personal experiences and the acultural appreciation of commonplace details. 
Within his own search of beauty and spatial quality, construction seems to resonate best with his impressions of the world.  Always seeing the whole as a collection of discrete parts that collide together, sometimes with tension sometimes with ease, creating ordinary backgrounds that hold endless beauty and endearment if the beholder is there to observe as in an Edward Hopper painting, a John Coltrane ballad or a film by Aki Kaurismäki.

Construction is the art of making a meaningful whole out of many parts - Peter Zumthor

Architecture is always concrete matter. Architecture is no abstract, but concrete - Peter Zumthor

Edward Hopper, Gas - 1940

Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940

Perhaps Zumthor cannot explain his motives other than by memories and personal moving moments. An ineffable sentimentality that always accompanied him, whether it is in wood-working as a teenager or as a world-famous architect in late adulthood.

As long as I can remember, I have always experienced the beauty of an artifact, an object created by man as a special presence of form, as a self-evident and self-confident hereness that is intrinsic to the object - Peter Zumthor

I felt good working on this cupboard. Making the precisely fitting joints and exact shapes to form a whole, a complete object that corresponded to my inner vision, triggered in me a state of intense concentration, and the finished piece of furniture added a freshness to my environment - Peter Zumthor

Thinking Architecture is a highly materialist/phenomenological piece, this book could be read as a way of opposing the loud and modern world. Its author is a fierce as a critic of contemporary content and formal exercises (one can well imagine that mindless Hadids, Gehrys and Libeskinds populating urban centers worldwide) he is nevertheless aiming somewhere between tradition and modernity.

In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language - Peter Zumthor

Preconceived images and stylistically prefabricated formal idioms are qualified only to block access to real things - Peter Zumthor

Without a complete refutation of neither tradition nor modernity, perhaps Zumthor is trying to find resonance in the in-between. This fragile 92 page book, first published in 1998, is a momentary view into the workings of the mind of a Pritzker prize laureate, and that is not even its main contribution, its main contribution is learning the personal, unique and touching sensibility from a master of his craft.

When an architectural design draws solely from tradition and only repeats the dictates of its site, I sense a lack of a genuine concern with the world and the emanations of contemporary life. If a work of architecture speaks only of contemporary trends and sophisticated visions without triggering vibrations in its place, this work is not anchored in its site and I miss the specific gravity of the ground it stands on - Peter Zumthor







THInking Architecture

Peter ZumthoR

BIRKHÄUSER - de gruyter

ISBN 3034605854