Detail trumps bling for Swiss firm Marcel Meili, Markus Peter Architekten, says Andrew Mead
‘After all, budgets are significantly smaller everywhere else,’ says Zürich-based architect Markus Peter in the interview that prefaces Marcel Meili, Markus Peter: Buildings And Projects 1987-2008 (Scheidegger & Spiess, £40). The projects in this 500-page book are mostly in Switzerland, so his practice profits from a culture that values architecture, but it still has to contend with the other impediments to successful design, not least a building process in which so many parties have a say that ‘regardless of which meeting we’re at, we no longer meet anyone who is personally truly responsible’. If that sounds familiar, this book could be an inspiration, being more a dossier than a conventionally glamorous monograph. While it doesn’t forgo photography of the finished buildings, it puts emphasis on the process of design, in works that range from a timber footbridge linking four different street levels to some large-scale urban insertions.
Pictured below is a villa on Lake Zürich the practice built in 1997-2001, clearly with Mies van der Rohe’s Krefeld Villas (1930) in mind. Along with such interrogation of precedent, there are insights here into dealing with existing buildings (whether adding to them by contrast or melding them into a new whole), and a sense that materiality and urban form are of equal concern. Though the occasional working drawings are too small to really be of use, the book still seems distinctly practical: it’s about attitude not style.