Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor

Different Kinds of Silence

We visited Peter Zumthor – one of the world’s leading architects – in his studio in Switzerland. In this extensive and rare biographical video interview he tells the captivating story of his childhood, his studies in NYC and his parents’ strong influence.

Zumthor – who works from the small town of Haldenstein in Switzerland – likes being outside the big centres of the world, as it frees him of having to consider the opinions of his fellow colleagues: “If you work like an artist, you need your own separate space.” He does, however, also work well in the “anonymous sound” of a city, where it is also possible to find calm in “a protective ocean of sound.” There are, Zumthor feels, different kinds of silence, and finding one’s mental silence – being able to concentrate – is what is most important in order to work well.

“There’s nothing I’m not interested in.” Zumthor loves literature and music, but prides himself in taking an overall interest in different things, as it fuels him: “It’s a nourishing ground.” His constant appetite for learning gives him the tools to be able to understand whatever place or landscape he needs to work in, and being able to “feel a space” and having an idea how to react as an architect, is essential. When he designs his innovative architecture, Zumthor furthermore puts great emphasis on connecting the old with the new, rather than breaking with history. Likewise, he feels that all architects have a great social responsibility when it comes to creating buildings, which are both well crafted and sustainable.

Anything can be considered art as long as it’s done with personal devotion to the making of it, Zumthor argues: “I never decided to become an architect.” Starting out as an industrial designer, it was not until 1968 that he made the decision of becoming an architect and began participating in competitions, thinking to himself: “I can do this better.” As for the first competition he entered, he was kicked out in the first round – a pivotal experience that made him aware of the need to always improve.

Peter Zumthor (b. 1943) is a Swiss architect. Among his best-known projects are the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, the thermal baths in Vals in Switzerland, the Swiss Pavilion for Expo 2000 in Hannover (an all-timber structure intended to be recycled after the event) and the Kolumba Diocesan Museum in Cologne. Zumthor is the winner of several prestigious awards such as the 1998 Carlsberg Architecture Prize, the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture (1999), the Praemium Imperiale (2008), the 2009 Pritzker Architecture Prize and the 2013 RIBA Royal Gold Medal. He lives and works in Switzerland.

For more about Peter Zumthor see: http://zumthor.tumblr.com/

Peter Zumthor was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his studio in Haldenstein, Switzerland in May 2015.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • 8 Artists

    On Painting

    ”A painting must always move beyond its subject,” says British painter Michael Simpson, who sees the practice of painting as ”giving form to an idea.” Hear how he, David Hockney and 6 other painters work with the classical art form.

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Ed Ruscha

    Words Have No Size

    The road to being an artist was “like blind leading the blind” says Ed Ruscha, who grew to be one of the most recognised American artists of the 20th century. Hear the story of West Coast Jazz, his break with abstract art and L.A. in the 1960s.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.

  • Dorte Mandrup

    Where Place Meets Sculpture

    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup’s new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were “everything comes together.”

  • 5 Artists

    on Making Sculptures

    “All sculpture that I’m interested in knows that death is the inevitable conclusion.” Award-winning artist Antony Gormley sees art as the expression and generation of hope. Hear how he and five other artists work with sculpture.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    Literature Should be Ruthless

    Karl Ove Knausgård has enchanted the literary world with ‘My Struggle’, a novel of more than 3000 pages about his own life. Watch the star author discuss literature, writing and how his autobiographical style is closely connected to fiction.