Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor

The mentor

Published in 2015

Widely revered Swiss architect Peter Zumthor (born on 26 April, 1943) has gained international renown for his timeless buildings that incorporate his masterful use of materials and light and challenge the senses. “I believe that the language of architecture is not a question of a specific style. Every building is built for a specific use in a specific place and for a specific society,” says Zumthor, winner of the Pritzker Prize, in his book Thinking Architecture.

Initially working in his father’s cabinet-making firm, Zumthor went on to train as a designer and architect in Basel and at the Pratt Institute in New York. After a decade as a conservation architect who also made inventories of Swiss historical villages, in 1978 he established his own practice in Haldenstein, Switzerland, where he still works with 30 staff. Zumthor also worked as an architecture professor in the U.S. and Europe.

Among Zumthor’s most celebrated projects are his masterpiece, the Therme Vals (1996, Switzerland), famed for its evocative use of space and exquisite construction details; the Kunsthaus Bregenz (1997, Austria); the Swiss Sound Box, Swiss Pavilion Expo 2000 (Germany); the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel (2007, Germany); and the Kolumba Art Museum (2007, Germany). More recently, he designed London’s 2011 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion with garden designer Piet Oudolf, Norway’s Steilneset Memorial with artist Louise Bourgeois (2011), and the Werkraumhaus in Andelsbuch, Austria (2013).

Zumthor is currently creating a tea chapel in a park in South Korea and redesigning the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to bring it into the 21st century – he has revealed plans to replace some existing structures with a new solar-powered building, due to open in 2023.

Adding to his many plaudits are the Praemium Imperiale and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. Said Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Palumbo: “[Zumthor’s] architecture expresses... the legacy of the local culture and the invaluable lessons of architectural history.”