Zumthor, Peter

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Peter Zumthor, 1943–, Swiss architect. He apprenticed with his cabinetmaker father as a teenager, and wood is a recurring material in his work, e.g., his small, shingled St. Benedict Chapel, Sumvitg, Switzerland (1989), and the maze of wooden walls at the Swiss Pavilion, Expo 2000, Hanover, Germany (2000). Zumthor studied at the Bauhaus-style Arts and Crafts School, Basel, and the Pratt Institute, New York City. He established an architectural practice in Haldenstein, a small Swiss mountain village, in 1979, and continues to work there. A perfectionist, he chooses to design relatively few buildings, and each of his projects is singular and subtle, simple yet sumptuous. He is probably best known for the austere thermal spa he designed for a hotel in Vals, Switzerland (1996). Built into a hillside and constructed of native quartzite slabs, with narrow skylights, his variation on ancient Roman baths focuses contemplative attention on the elemental—water, stone, light, sound, and shadow. Other projects include the art museum in Bregenz, Austria (1997), whose glass walls become vast video screens at night; the elegantly economical, concrete Bruder Klaus Chapel, Mechemich, Germany (2007); and the boxy, modernist Kolumba Museum, Cologne (2007), which sensitively encloses historic ruins. Zumthor has taught in Europe and the United States, and was awarded (2009) the Pritzker Prize.

See his Three Concepts: Bath Vals, Art Museum Bregenz, Topography of Terror Berlin (1996), Peter Zumthor Works: Buildings and Projects 1979–1997 (1998), and Thinking Architecture (1999, rev. ed. 2006); K. Gantenbein, ed., Seeing Zumthor (2009).