What surrounds us is what is within us,” as written by T.F. Hodge, is a statement that holds under most circumstances. Architecture involves a symphony of spaces and the philosophy behind the different organizations. Inspiration for such philosophies is often developed out of simple observations from the surroundings. This part of the whole approach, including the various stakeholders, is an essential part of an effective design process. According to the world-famous architect Peter Zumthor when one works as an artist, they need their own separate space to think and recollect their thoughts to ultimately find the result.

Interviews with Architects: Peter Zumthor Interview: Different Kinds of Silence - Sheet1
Peter Zumthor © Dominik Gigler

The Work Environment

In his interview with the Louisiana Channel (conducted under the Architect’s Interviews by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art), Peter Zumthor tells stories from his life and the different experiences: ranging from his childhood story to his study in New York City and the heavy influence of his parents on all of those experiences. His empirical thought process is accompanied by his open attitude towards the interactions between human senses and the different materials and the surroundings. Working from a Haldenstein (which is a small town in Switzerland), he explains his inclination towards being outside the big centers of the world which frees him from considering the opinions and influence of his colleagues.

Interviews with Architects: Peter Zumthor Interview: Different Kinds of Silence - Sheet2
The Architect’s Work Environment – Peter Zumthor with Gloria Cabral

© Rolex/Marc Latzel

An Architect’s Work

The famous Dutch architect- Rem Koolhaas once said, “Architecture is a dangerous mix of power and importance. Infrastructure is much more important than architecture.”Reading along those lines, the purpose of architecture is to add to the well being of the people through an array of good usable spaces. It is also the social responsibility of the architect to create sustainable buildings as well as craft. A good space changes the mood of the associated people which affects their workflow. His famous works, “Klaus Field Chapel” and “Kolumba Art Museum” exhibit a harmonious interplay and hierarchy of light and presence of space.

Interviews with Architects: Peter Zumthor Interview: Different Kinds of Silence - Sheet3
The Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne, Germany © archute.com

Sound and Silences

In his interview, Peter Zumthor mentions that there are different types of silences (relative from person to person), and it is essential to identify one’s mental silence to produce good work and concentrate. He also talks about the “anonymous sound” of a city in which the amalgamation of different sounds forms an ocean of sound that is protective in nature due to its neutralizing effect. Mental headspace is an essential part of any building process or problem-solving.

Philosophies and Design

Peter Zumthor says, “When I concentrate on a specific site or place for which I am going to design a building, I try to plumb its depths, its form, its history, and its sensuous qualities.” Any building should have an emotional core. His work portrays the conservation of history and culture of the area where the building is set up, putting extra emphasis on connecting the old and the new instead of disrupting the whole history. Site study is an undoubtedly important aspect of any design, which can be easily mixed with the site’s history to produce buildings which not only become the basis of art attraction or a landmark but preserve the culture and values of the area it is built-in.

Journey as an Architect

Peter Zumthor started as an industrial designer after which in 1968, he shifted his interests towards architecture. He started like most budding architects do, which is by analyzing competitions and taking part in it. He began participating in such competitions thinking that he can do better than them. He later mentions that his first competition was an essential experience when kicked out in the first round. This experience made him understand the importance of improvement and learning from one’s failures.

He even talks about the fact that most of his initial buildings were rejected for aesthetic reasons.

But with time, he grew in both recognition and content and his capability to feel the spaces helped him out throughout this journey. His work is described as uncompromising and minimalist. Some of his famous works are Therme Vals (in Switzerland), Kolumba (in Germany), Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (in England), Kunsthaus Bregenz (in Austria), Saint Benedict Chapel (in Switzerland), and so on.

Interviews with Architects: Peter Zumthor Interview: Different Kinds of Silence - Sheet4
Therme Vals in Switzerland © enscape.com
Interviews with Architects: Peter Zumthor Interview: Different Kinds of Silence - Sheet5
Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria © bsb.de

As a designer of space, one must have an understanding of what to do in different situations and adapt to different input that is gained along the process. People often find themselves working from uninspiring spaces that trap them from doing their best works, leading to a situation described as a ‘creative block.’ And that’s when people are drawn to change their work environment and take breaks to get back into the headspace to work things out.

In his interview, Peter Zumthor addresses these problems and tells about how the environment reflects on his work. The interview shines a light on the life of one of the world’s most famed architects, Peter Zumthor, and gives deep insights into the various aspects of architecture and design, making it worth watching. 


Currently pursuing bachelor's in urban planning, with a keen interest in art and design. His works have a sense of fantasy and practicality and he is obsessed with the word ‘Why.’ He enjoys learning complicated concepts and finds their application in life.

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