Eyes half closed, I float. Limbs are light. Weightless. Water that is gently touching my skin is neither warm nor cold. High ceiling is disappearing in semi darkness. Square-shaped stone tomb that surrounds me, feels protective and threatening at the same time. A brief look at the low, narrow passage, that connects the space with the outside, sends claustrophobic spikes through my mind. I slowly push myself towards the opening in a stone wall and quickly emerge in an open pool. “35 degrees” says simple copper sign on a stone wall. Light is playfully dancing on the rough grey walls and smooth water surfaces. Ambient feels magical – like one would enter another world, parallel to ours. A world where time stays still. There is no rush. No loud noises. Only tranquility.

Atelier Zumthor Peter Zumthor’s work came on my radar quite late. It must have been around 2005 or maybe even later since I have a feeling that he won Pritzker Price Award soon after that. Nevertheless, I was immediately impressed by the work of an architect that operates from a remote town in Swiss Alps. He went straight to the top of my bucket list and it was a tricky play of coincidences that delayed my ‘Zumthor’s road trip’ for more than a decade.

The opportunity finally arose this fall and I finally hit the road accompanied with my Alenka and Živa. And what a rewarding trip that proved to be.

Spittelhof housing near Basel (Switzerland) – low tech & low cost materials and simple & beautiful architectural solutions culminate into high quality communal living for open minded people.

Zumthor’s own apartment houses on a hills above Vals (Switzerland). By some sources those houses represent his architectural expression in its essence.

Therme Vals, Vals (Switzerland) is probably the most famous of Zumthor’s works – and rightfully so since here he was able to present his teachings about the atmospheres at its purest form. It is also a living example of his claim, that the architecture has to be experienced first handedly since there is no way to recreate the experience of the space in any other way.

Saint Benedict Chapel, Sumvitg (Switzerland) is doubtlessly one of the most beautiful buildings I ever visited. Placed imposingly – even more than I would assume from Zumthor – on a slope of the hill above the village – its leaf-like shape makes it look different from every perspective. Modest and sparsely furnished interior is bathed in the sunlight penetrating the space from the near-the-ceiling windows.

Shelters for Roman archaeological site, Chur (Switzerland) – definitely not one of his most impressive works. Nevertheless it is nice how he put a simple wooden shelter over the ruins while avoiding touching the precious remains both – physically and metaphorically.

Atelier Zumthor, Haldenstein (Switzerland) – although I felt a bit intrusive, I reconed it is simply a mandatory visit for deeper understanding of Zumthor’s work and the man personally.

Kunsthaus, Bregenz (Austria) – by my opinion one of the less impressive works of his. Regarding his other buildings, I am inclined to give him a benefit of the doubt that I have not seen it at the appropriate setup.

Matej Gašperič

Architect