zumthor_crop.jpgBregenz Art Museum Interior

A good rule of thumb: any discipline that throws around the term “brutalism” isn’t something you want to traverse without a native guide.

So it’s nice to have an architecture prize let us know what’s happening. The Pritzker Prize is more or less the top honors, known within the industry as the Nobel Prize of architecture, and apparently it’s just been nabbed by a clever Swissman named Peter Zumthor.

Not bad, for a kid from Basel…

Zumthor works in a style of minimalism that should be familiar to anyone versed in the last 50 years of architecture, but Zumthor has always been able to work in a few refreshingly novel twists, as in the Kolumba Art Museum (at bottom) which was built on the ruins of a gothic church destroyed in World War II.

And unlike some of his more reticent colleagues, he’s always good for a nostalgic quote. Here’s Mr. Z on his childhood design yearnings:

There was a time when I experienced architecture without thinking about it. Sometimes I can almost feel a particular door handle in my hand, a piece of metal shaped like the back of a spoon. I used to take hold of it when I went into my aunt’s garden. That door handle still seems to me like a special sign of entry into a world of different moods and smells. I remember the sound of the gravel under my feet, the soft gleam of the waxed oak staircase, I can hear the heavy front door closing behind me as I walk along the dark corridor and enter the kitchen, the only really brightly lit room in the house.

zumthor1_crop.jpgSaint Benedict Chapel, Sumvitg, Graubünden, Switzerland
zumthor2_crop.jpgTherme Vals
zumthor3_crop.jpgKolumba Art Museum Courtyard

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom