Our friend and architectural photographer Felipe Camus recently embarked on an architectural pilgrimage to the valley of the Rhein. Located in the Graubünden region in Switzerland, the valley boasts many of the seminal works of Pritzker Prize Laureate Peter Zumthor, all within a 60-kilometer radius. Born in Graubünden himself, Zumthor designed the works in relation to their location and time by paying special attention to details and materials. As a result, the works all present Zumthor’s unparalleled skills of craftsmanship and his uncompromising integrity.
Join us for a special AD Architectural Mountain Guide, including a detailed map, photos and descriptions of Zumthor’s works, after the break….
Saint Benedict Chapel, Sumvitg, Graubünden, Switzerland, 1988
The Saint Benedict Chapel was constructed in the village of Sumvitg following a 1984 avalanche that destroyed the existing baroque-style chapel of the village. The modest, cylinder-shaped chapel was constructed with local wooden shingles and topped with a roof reminiscent of the hull of a boat. A ring of vertical wood columns and glass panels allows natural light to penetrate the interior space, which contains minimalist woodwork: showcases of Zumthor’s craftsmanship capabilities.
For more information, check out the Saint Benedict Chapel on ArchDaily
Protective Housing for Roman Excavations, Chur, Graubünden, Switzerland, 1986
This structure in the city of Chur aims to protect a local archaeological site, safeguarding the delicate, on-going excavations while still integrating the site into the city. For this purpose, Zumthor designed a protective rectilinear structure of thin wooden frames, which allows for light, sound and air to flow between city and site. Moreover, a ramp was constructed in such a way that visitors could view the ruins without disturbing the excavations taking place.
Gugalun House, Versam, Switzerland, 1994
This house was renovated by Zumthor following a request from the tenants, who have owned the estate for over three generations and desired to update the vacation home, but “without [it] losing its magic.” Zumthor designed the house extension alongside the existing building, respecting the house’s original materials and techniques. His design included an enlargement of the house volume - adding a new kitchen, two bedrooms, a reading room and a bathroom - which extended directly into the mountainside. Zumthor’s subtle work on this project delicately joins the old with the new, establishing a sense of the continuum of time.
Homes for Senior Citizens, Masans, Graubünden, Switzerland, 1993
This residential development, adjacent to a local nursing home in the city of Masans, contains twenty-two self-service apartments for senior citizens. The complex was constructed with local materials, such as tuff, pine and maple, creating a traditional and comfortable atmosphere for the region-born tenants. Each apartment boasts an abundance of natural light: the kitchen faces east, while the sheltered balconies and living room face west, towards the valley and the sunset.
Zumthor Studio, Haldenstein, Graubünden, Switzerland, 1986
This humble hillside retreat houses the studio and home of Peter Zumthor. The U-shaped structure surrounds an inner courtyard, which connects the indoor and outdoor, living and working spaces. The studio was extended in 2005 to include a new working space, constructed with glass, concrete and steel; the new extension’s wide windows allowed for natural light to penetrate the interiors, creating an optimal ambient work zone.
Thermal Bath Vals, Graubünden, Switzerland, 1996
The Therme Vals is a hotel and spa built over the only natural springs in the region. The cave-like structure is semi-buried into the hillside and constructed with 60,000 locally-quarried Valser quartzite slabs. This stone became the driving inspiration for the design, due to its reflective and acoustic qualities. The informal layout of the floor plan, containing open and closed rectilinear spaces, allows visitors to freely circulate and rediscover the luxurious and ancient benefits of bathing. The building became an immediate landmark, and was declared a protected building only two years following its completion.
For more information, check out the Thermal Bath Vals on ArchDaily
Zumthor has noted once: “In my buildings I try to enhance what seems to be valuable, to correct what is disturbing and to create anew what we feel is missing…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.”
View A journey through the works of Peter Zumthor in a larger map