The world renowned Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has been named today (Thursday 27 September 2012) as the recipient of one of the worlds most prestigious architecture prizes, the Royal Gold Medal.
Given in recognition of a lifetimes work, the Royal Gold Medal 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.
Known for running a small yet powerful and uncompromising practice, Peter Zumthor founded his award-winning firm in 1979 in Switzerland. His most celebrated projects include the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, the Therme Vals (thermal baths) in Vals, Switzerland and the Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne. He designed Londons 2011 Serpentine Pavilion and is currently designing a house in Devon for philosopher Alain de Bottons Living Architecture architect-designed holiday home scheme.
He is exceptionally talented at creating highly atmospheric spaces through his mastery of light and choice of materials. Zumthors 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.
President Angela Brady, who chaired the Honours Committee which selected the Royal Gold medal winner said, Peter Zumthors 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. I will be delighted to present him with the Royal Gold Medal.
Peter Zumthor will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal on Wednesday 6 February 2013 at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, during which the 2013 RIBA International and Honorary Fellowships will also be presented.
This years RIBA Honours Committee was chaired by RIBA President Angela Brady with architects Peter Clegg, Yvonne Farrell, Professor Adrian Forty, Niall McLaughlin and Sarah Wigglesworth.
Peter Zumthor was born in Basel in 1943 and trained as a cabinet maker at his fathers shop. From 1963-67, he trained as a designer and architect 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 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.
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.
In his book Thinking Architecture, published by Birkhauser, Zumthor set down in his own words a philosophy of architecture: I believe that architecture today needs to reflect on the tasks and possibilities which are inherently its own. Architecture is not a vehicle or a symbol for things that do not belong to its essence. In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. 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. My buildings try to answer the questions that emerge from these simple facts as precisely and critically as they can.