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Peter Zumthor wins Pritzker Prize

The Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has been chosen as the 2009 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize

Zumthor will be presented with a bronze medallion and a $100,000 grant at a ceremony on 29 May in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, said: ‘Peter Zumthor is a master architect admired by his colleagues around the world for work that is focused, uncompromising and exceptionally determined… all of Peter Zumthor’s buildings have a strong, timeless presence. He has a rare talent of combining clear and rigorous thought with a truly poetic dimension, resulting in works that never cease to inspire.’

The judges’ citation stated: ‘Zumthor has a keen ability to create places that are much more than a single building. His architecture expresses respect for the primacy of the site, the legacy of a local culture and the invaluable lessons of architectural history… In Zumthor’s skillful hands, like those of the consummate craftsman, materials from cedar shingles to sandblasted glass are used in a way that celebrates their own unique qualities, all in the service of an architecture of permanence.

‘While some have called his architecture quiet, his buildings masterfully assert their presence.’

The 65-year-old architect responded: ‘Being awarded the Pritzker Prize is a wonderful recognition of the architectural work we have done in the last 20 years. That a body of work as small as ours is recognized in the professional world makes us feel proud and should give much hope to young professionals that if they strive for quality in their work it might become visible without any special promotion.’

The Pritzker Architecture Prize - generally recognised architecture’s highest honour - is presented annually to a living architect whose built work demonstrates a ‘combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture’.

Peter Zumthor speaks to the Architects’ Journal

Listen to AJ editor Kieran Long discuss Zumthor’s Pritzker win on the BBC World Service

Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals baths, as seen in Vogue and the LA Times

› What the web thinks of Zumthor’s triumph: today’s articles blog posts, audio and video

Peter Zumthor: Citation from the Pritzker Jury

Peter Zumthor is a master architect admired by his colleagues around the world for work that is focused, uncompromising and exceptionally determined. He has conceived his method of practice almost as carefully as each of his projects. 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 architectural scene.

There, together with a small team, he develops buildings of great integrity - untouched by fad or fashion. Declining a majority of the commissions that come his way, he only accepts a project if he feels a deep affinity for its program, and from the moment of commitment, his devotion is complete, overseeing the project’s realization to the very last detail. His buildings have a commanding presence, yet they prove the power of judicious intervention, showing us again and again that modesty in approach and boldness in overall result are not mutually exclusive. Humility resides alongside strength. While some have called his architecture quiet, his buildings masterfully assert their presence, engaging many of our senses, not just our sight but also our senses of touch, hearing and smell.

Zumthor has a keen ability to create places that are much more than a single building. His architecture expresses respect for the primacy of the site, the legacy of a local culture and the invaluable lessons of architectural history. The Kolumba Museum in Cologne, for example, is not only a startling contemporary work but also one that is completely at ease with its many layers of history. Here, Zumthor has produced a building that emerges from the remains of a bombed church in the most inevitable and lyrical of ways, intertwining place and memory in an entirely new palimpsest.

This has always been the compelling character of this architect’s work, from the singular yet universal breath of faith inscribed in the tiny field chapel in the village of Wachendorf, Germany, to the mineral mist in the thermal baths at Vals, Switzerland. For him, the role of the architect is not just to construct a fixed object but also to anticipate and choreograph the experience of moving through and around a building.

In Zumthor’s skillful hands, like those of the consummate craftsman, materials from cedar shingles to sandblasted glass are used in a way that celebrates their own unique qualities, all in the service of an architecture of permanence. The same penetrating vision and subtle poetry are evident in his writings as well, which, like his portfolio of buildings, have inspired generations of students. In paring down architecture to itsbarest yet most sumptuous essentials, he has reaffirmed architecture’s indispensable place in a fragile world. For all of these reasons, Peter Zumthor is the recipient of the 2009 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Readers' comments (2)

Was Zumthor a worthy winner?

  • Zumthor is in the line of Jorn Utzon, Siza and Moneo - all great Pritzker winners. But the prize wants to be all things to all people. How can the same jury who rewards Zaha Hadid, Thom Mayne, Jean Nouvel etc like Zumthor? Bloody pluralism. It's nonsense.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • The pritzker is not just in the business of giving out awards to architects. It is in the business of preserving its own credibility. They really did not have much of a choice but to give the award to Zumthor

    This article puts it squarely

    http://famousarchitect.blogspot.com/2009/05/60-play-peter-pritzker-peddling-hermit.html

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