Peter Zumthor in conversation with Angela Brady

The 70 year old Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has been named as the recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious architecture prizes, the “RIBA Royal Gold Medal” for 2013. He will be presented with the Medal on Wednesday 6 February 2013 at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London.

Established in 1848, the “Royal Gold Medal” is given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, it is approved personally by Her Majesty the Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”. The award is for a body of work, rather than for one building or for an architect who is currently fashionable. Previous winners include Le Corbusier (1953), Frank Gehry (2000), Archigram (2002), Frei Otto (2005), Toyo Ito (2006), Herzog and de Meuron (2007), Edward (Ted) Cullinan (2008), Alvaro Siza (2009), I. M. Pei (2010), Sir David Chipperfield (2011) and Herman Hertzberger (2012).

The prize is given to Zumthor because he is exceptionally talented at creating highly atmospheric spaces through his mastery of light and choice of materials. Zumthor’s buildings, such as his small rural chapels and the Thermal Baths at Vals, are an experience for all the senses, with every detail reinforcing the essence of the building and its surroundings. RIBA President Angela Brady, who chaired the Honours Committee which selected the Royal Gold medal winner said: “Peter Zumthor’s work renews the link with a tradition of modern architecture that emphasises place, community and material practice. His writings dwell upon the experience of designing, building and inhabitation while his buildings are engaged in a rich dialogue with architectural history.”The architect Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor was born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1943 and from 1958 to 1962 he trained as a cabinet maker at his father’s shop. From 1963-67, he studied design and architecture at the Kunstgewerbeschule Basel and at the Pratt Institute in New York.

In 1967, he was employed by the Canton of Graubünden (Switzerland) in the Department for the Preservation of Monuments working as a building and planning consultant and architectural analyst of historical villages. He established his own practice in 1979 in Haldenstein, Switzerland, where he still works with a staff of 30.

He was visiting professor at the University of Southern California Institute of Architecture and SCI-ARC in Los Angeles in 1988; at the Technische Universität, Munich in 1989; and at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University in 1999.

From 1996-2008 he was a professor at the Academy of Architecture, Universitá della Svizzera Italiana, Mendrisio.

His many awards include:

The “Heinrich Tessenow Medal”, Technical University, Hanover, 1989; “Carlsberg Architectural Prize”, Copenhagen, 1998; “Bündner Kulturpreis”, Graubünden, 1998; “Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture”, Barcelona, 1998; “Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award”, Wood in Culture Association, Finland, 2006; “Prix Meret Oppenheim”, Federal Office of Culture, Switzerland, 2006; “Praemium Imperiale”, Japan Art Association, 2008; “DAM Prize for Architecture in Germany”, 2008 and “The Pritzker Architecture Prize”, The Hyatt Foundation, 2009.His major buildings are:

“Protective Housing for Roman Archaeological Excavations”, Chur, Switzerland, 1986; “Sogn Benedetg Chapel”, Sumvitg, Switzerland, 1988; “Gugalun House”, Versam, Switzerland, 1994; “Therme Vals”, Switzerland, 1996; “Kunsthaus Bregenz”, Austria, 1997; “Swiss Sound Box”, Swiss Pavilion, Expo 2000, Hanover,

Germany, 2000; “Kolumba Art Museum”, Cologne, Germany, 2007; “Bruder Klaus Field Chapel”, Wachendorf, Germany, 2007, “Steilneset, Memorial for the Victims of the Witch Trials in the Finnmark”, Vardø, Norway, 2011, and the “Serpentine Gallery Pavilion”, London, England, 2011.

Finally, he is currently designing a house in Devon (“The secular Retreat”) for philosopher Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture architect-designed holiday home scheme.


by ribaarchitecture·

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