Bruder Klaus Field Chapel / Peter Zumthor

©Samuel Ludwig

“In order to design buildings with a sensuous connection to life, one must think in a way that goes far beyond form and construction.” This quote from rings true in his design of , where a mystical and thought-proving interior is masked by a very rigid rectangular exterior.

More on Bruder Klaus Field Chapel and Peter Zumthor after the break.

©Samuel Ludwig

Bruder Klaus Field Chapel all began as a sketch, eventually evolving to become a very elegant yet basic landmark in Germany’s natural landscape. The design was constructed by local farmers who wanted to honor their patron saint, Bruder Klaus of the 15th century.

©Samuel Ludwig

Arguably the most interesting aspects of the church are found in the methods of construction, beginning with a wigwam made of 112 tree trunks. Upon completion of the frame, layers of concrete were poured and rammed atop the existing surface, each around 50cm thick. When the concrete of all 24 layers had set, the wooden frame was set on fire, leaving behind a hollowed blackened cavity and charred walls.

The unique roofing surface of the interior is balanced by a floor of frozen molten lead. Gaze is pulled up by way of obvious directionality, to the point where the roof is open to the sky and night stars. This controls the weather of the chapel, as ran and sunlight both penetrate the opening and create an ambience or experience very specific to the time of day and year.

©Samuel Ludwig

On a sunny day, this oculus resembles the flare of a star that can be attributed to a refereence of Brother Klaus’s vision in the womb. The very somber and reflective feelings that become inevitable in one’s encounter with the chapel make it one of the most striking pieces of religious architecture to date. With no plumbing, bathrooms, running water, electricity, and with it’s charred concrete and lead floors, the seemingly uninviting chapel remains an anticipated destination for many.

©Thomas Mayer

“To me, buildings can have a beautiful silence that I associate with attributes such as composure, self-evidence, durability, presence, and integrity, and with warmth and sensuousness as well; a building that is being itself, being a building, not representing anything, just being.”

Recognized around the world for his stunning architecture designs, Peter Zumthor was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2009.

Architect: Peter Zumthor
Location: Mechernich, Germany
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Samuel Ludwig,  Thomas Mayer
References: Peter Zumthor

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "Bruder Klaus Field Chapel / Peter Zumthor" 26 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • up_today_arch

    Special kind of thinking about architecture…

  • matte

    wonderful use of material! as zumthor usually does
    in my opinion the topic of sustainability shouldn’t be discuss in such a small space!

    :) thanks peter :)

  • godryk

    This is project has high social and spiritual qualities. Instead of proposing a huge and strange object, an extraterrestial artifact calculated by one hundred Arup engineers, using tons of steel and highly processed components composed by dozens of small pieces coming from China and many other different locations (transported by boat); instead of all that, he lets the farmers be part of their chapel, build it with their own hands and finish it in such a spiritual and magical way.

    Think about it, he is a Pritzker winning architect that gives up his “right” to own and build that form and let the farmers to own it.

    I’m fed up with all these articles everywhere about huge buildings in China or Dubai, with absurd economical, social and enviromental costs, that start talking about sustainability, about some solar panels that provide some electricity to the stadium and about, oh my god, some openings desgined to let the sun in during wintertime and out during sumertime. Is that more sustainable than this small chapel? Please, fellow architecs, don’t let this cheap talk turn you into mindless sheeps.

  • jdcarling


  • ArchiChavo

    One of the best buildings of our generation. Zumthor is in another level of thought than all the starchitects out there. His feeling for materiality, site, and space is present in all of his project, regardless of the budget of them. I would like to challenge Zaha or Liebskind to create a great building without spending millions of dollars to do so.
    Truly fantastic!

  • alechs

    Everything is fine asides the door… it looks really goofy compared to the rest of the building… the building is open air… why need a door that is completely solid?

    • PatrickLBC

      This is just a guess…

      A big part of the spacial experience seems to come from having the ONLY light source directly overhead. Without a door, there would always be light coming in from the side which would dampen the effect.

      Awesome building.

      • alechs

        I’m not too hung up on this, this is a nitpick, but…
        The issue is not the spatial experience but the stylistic consistency of the chapel. First of all I think a solid door is overkill, a strange architectural deviant, and reads like an oversized commercial storage closet door with its top corners chopped off. Could the door not have been a veil or another material that isn’t rigid, obtrusive, or as a whole simply dated? This criticism comes from a disappointment that an artifact created through the poetics of molding and solidifying that the only element a person directly touches is the most conventional (and strangely so with a strange proportion and single hinge)?