Architectural Superstar Peter Zumthor is UB's 2004 Visiting Clarkson Chair in Architecture

Release Date: April 6, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Switzerland is widely recognized as one of today's most important centers of modern architectural thought and Peter Zumthor, the 2004 Will and Nan Clarkson Visiting Chair in Architecture at the University at Buffalo, has produced works that are among his nation's major achievements.

Zumthor's designs for small rural houses (including his own studio), public architecture and provincial museums are celebrated for their clean beauty, and his vocabulary of form articulates a radically independent aesthetic and masterly knowledge of materials that have led to his emergence as a superstar in his field.

During his weeklong visit to UB on April 4-9, Zumthor will present this year's Clarkson Visiting Lecture in Architecture at 5:30 p.m. on April 7 in 301 Crosby Hall on UB's South (Main Street) Campus. The talk, "The Magic of the Real," will be free and open to the public. It will be followed by a public reception for the architect.

Zumthor also will tour the UB School of Architecture and Planning; hold several seminars, and graduate studio reviews, and office-hour sessions; be the guest of honor at luncheons and dinners; visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and local architectural sites, including Louis Sullivan's Guarantee Building, the Darwin Martin House Complex, the H.H.Richardson complex and Kleinhan's Music Hall, designed by the famous father and son Finnish architectural team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen.

Among Zumthor's major commissions are his luminous Kunsthaus (art museum) at Bregenz, Austria, and the gorgeous Thermal Baths at Vals, both of which won him the 1998 Carlsberg Architectural Prize.

The Baths' minimalist geometric shapes, which, combined with their material, provoke an otherworldly sense of the archaic, were constructed from local Valser quartzite and concrete. In describing his conception of the building, Zumthor uses images of quarries and the spontaneous flow of

water from the ground, and in fact, this is precisely the sense conveyed by this work -- flowing water, walls of rock, the stillness of utter simplicity and the silence of the ages.

Some critics claim Zumthor has reinvented Modernism as a minimalism, and in fact, one of the most intriguing characteristics of Zumthor's buildings are the spatial emanations they suggest -- translucent atmospherics that surround his version of the Swiss vernacular style.

Zumthor describes the origins of his sensibility as a near state of grace between tectonics and poetics that relies on ephemeral and often mysterious intuitive forces. This sentience, coupled with his reticent nature, has earned Zumthor a reputation as the "mystic" of architecture. Mystic or not, Richard Ingersoll, writing in Architecture calls Zumthor's "extraordinary works that seem destined to represent the age..."

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