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Peter Zumthor Wins Pritzker Prize

Peter Z.jpgToday Peter Zumthor became more than an architect, a Swiss architect, and even a 65-year-old architect. Now he’s a Pritzker Prize-winning architect, joining previous laureates that include Philip Johnson, Richard Meier, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, and Jean Nouvel. Zumthor will receive the $100,000 prize—and that goes-with-everything bronze medallion—at a ceremony in Buenos Aires on May 29.

A little foggy on Zumthor (who, you may recall us announcing last fall, won the 2008 Praemium Imperiale for architecture)? The Basel-born son of a cabinet maker seems to prefer it that way. “For 30 years, he has been based in the remote village of Haldenstein in the Swiss mountains, removed from the flurry of activity of the international architecture scene,” notes the Pritzer Prize jury in its citation. “There, together with a small team, he develops buildings of great integrity—untouched by fad or fashion.” Click “continued…” to see a couple of them. This year’s Pritzker jury, chaired again by Lord Palumbo, consisted of architect Alejandro Aravena, architect and Keio University professor Shigeru Ban, Vitra chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, architect and Rice University professor Carlos Jimenez, architect Juhani Pallasmaa, 1998 Pritzker laureate Renzo Piano, and writer/architectural consultant Karen Stein.


PZ baths.jpg
(Photos: Helene Binet)

The Thermal Bath Vals in Graubunden, Switzerland (pictured above), began with the small town’s unenthusiastic acquisition of a bankrupt hotel complex in 1983. When a total makeover proved too costly, the town decided to begin with thermal baths. Cut to 1996, and Zumthor’s completed project—a load-bearing structure with concrete walls and thin slabs of locally quarried gneiss awash in 86°F thermal water from the nearby mountain—is bringing 40,000 visitors a year to Vals.

PZ cologne.jpg
(Photos: Helene Binet)

Completed in 2007, the Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne (pictured above) rises from the ruins of the Saint Kolumba church, destroyed in World War II. Its ground floor contains a large excavation site with the remains of previous church buildings that date to the 7th century and the chapel built by Gottfried Bohm in 1949/50. Zumthor’s building provides 17 galleries of varying proportions and lighting on three floors. The Pritzker jury called the museum “a startling contemporary work, but also one that is completely at ease with its many layers of history.”

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