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:
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

78 Hours

1st prize winner of Henning Larsen Foundation’s international film competition on architecture and film.

Cole Phoenix Skaggs on his film: “This film attempts to capture one time cycle of the space as its transient occupants whirl through their lives. It silently holds firm a space of memories, atmospheres and emotions played out within its vessels. Time choreographs the space and Chopin’s Waltz No. 7 conducts the film. “Waltz” comes from the German word Waltzen, meaning to turn or revolve. A view from within offers only glimpses of what lies beyond as we move about and time passes firmly, leaving behind scenes of defeat, work and rest”.

by Cole Skaggs, Ithaca, New York
Location: Milstein Hall, Cornell Univsersity School of Architecture
Music: Chopin Waltz No. 7 In C Sharp Minor


A building is a stage for the life it encloses. To show it without life is like showing a stage empty of the drama, raising the curtain only during the interval.

Though architects cannot script people’s lives, they can imagine them enacted, in their full complexity, against the backdrop they have built for them. Instead of empty buildings, or—worse—buildings decorated with the pseudolife of static models, we wish to show architecture refracted through a stream of dramatic life.

In the first short film of our series—Black Ice—the life is dark, psychotically inventive, as is the architecture. The others will be different. But they will all seek to unify architecture and life, against the old conventions that keep them artificially apart.

We shall be screening Black Ice at our studio during the London Design Festival 2015, and offering guided tours of the space the film seeks to bring into created life.


Human- Yann Arthus-Bertrand 2015

What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight ? That we laugh ? Cry ? Our curiosity ? The quest for discovery ?
Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.

The VOL.1 deals with the themes of love, women, work and poverty.

The VOL.2 deals with the themes of war, forgiving, homosexuality, family and life after death.

The VOL.3 deals with the themes of happiness, education, disability, immigration, corruption and the meaning of life.

Ordos 100- directed by Ai Weiwei 2012

Directed by Ai Weiwei (China, 2012). Official Selection International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012.

Ordos 100 is a construction project curated by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. One hundred architects from 27 countries were chosen to participate and each design a 1000-square-meter villa to be built in a new community in Inner Mongolia. The 100 villas would be designed to fit a master plan designed by Ai Weiwei.
On January 25, 2008, the 100 architects gathered in Ordos for a first visit to the site. The film Ordos 100 documents a total of three site visits, during which time the master plan and design of each villa was completed. As of this date, the Ordos 100 project remains unrealized (Ai Weiwei Studio).