8. Levels of Intimacy
The contrast of the building to the body. Size, mass, the gravity, proximity and distance, scale. What is it that one space can make you feel humble and small while another can make you feel proud and light?
In general, Zumthor calls it “the ladder”. But here it is something more bodily, dimensional, in relation to the man. The scale game allows you to play with the tension between a body and the architecture that surrounds it. Proximity, distance, opening, closing.
This induces a relationship between the body and various notions like size, mass, scale.
Zumthor takes an example with the door, which playing on different characteristics of it, totally changes the perception that we have a passage, a threshold. A large elongated door makes always bigger when you go through it with your body. We can check this how Peter Zumthor shifted the entrance to the door of the Sainte-B?n?dicte Chapel.
He always tries to create buildings where the inner form, even empty, is not the same than the outside.
It’s not just a question of drawing, of building a wall to delimit the space inside and outside. It creates spaces where the interior emits a hidden mass sensation, something more than just being inside something. We feel an interior atmosphere very particular and very different from that felt on the outside.
He also puts his finger on things more who intimidate him, often seen from the outside, as for the Sainte-B?n?dicte Chapel these tall buildings are imposing, but an inside, you do not feel at all feeling of inferiority, as if the building expected. Inside, you feel sublimated. These buildings, these particular spaces give it the feeling of being bigger, stronger, he feels freer.
We cannot say that the big is bad, that there is no scale report with the Man. Because it is precisely this conception of the big, the small, that enters into relation with the human being, makes him feel things and if they are perfectly arranged, Man will always be in his place, even with large spaces. There is still something else that he adds in this theme of intimacy, the notion of dimension, of distance from the user. The distance between the elements but also the dimension between the people themselves. You have to imagine what we feel how space would be lived with a lot of people. How to feel good, happy in the middle of all of these people? This is also part of his reflection on levels of intimacy, whether it’s the reported scale with the building or the report with a number of people small or big. The reflection, the atmosphere will be not the same, people are changing the way we perceive the place, the way we feel.
9. The Light on Things
Imagine how the light falls, where shadows arise? Plan the building as a pure mass of shadow, then, put light in it as you were hollowing out the darkness as if the light were a new mass seeping in. Look at the way each material reflects the light.
The light illuminates the spaces, creates shadows, games of light, relief, depth, natural light or must be controlled to magnify the space or material. For Zumthor, do not worry about the lighting of a space only when it is built, last. No, he must pay attention from the beginning of the research. Zumthor has two clear ideas about lighting a space. The first is to start from a dark mass and add to it light where it is needed to create moods as if we were digging darkness. The light infiltrates in the mass, as herein Bruder Klaus Kapel Zumthor’s second idea about light is to do real research on the capacity of reflection of materials and surfaces lighting that will be used in the project.
Good knowledge of the materiality used is necessary, its composition, texture, color, its position in the room, it takes also pay attention to various sources bright project, natural or artificial. You have to be fully aware of their properties, how these are reflected on the walls or objects, their direction, their intensity or the atmosphere they bring to the place, as here in the Thermes de Vals. The work of light combined with that of sound allows him to choose materiality in a relentless logic, in a coherent whole, where each element works with the whole. Zumthor perfectly describes this process of searching for light: “Think first of the building as a mass of shadow and then place the lights as if by a process of course, as if light were allowed to penetrate. So these are the nine points that Zumthor defines as principles when designing a project. They show how he and his office approach architecture. It’s a rather personal approach, of course, and it cannot be generalized.
The Three Appendages
The Swiss architect, however, adds three “secondary” parts that he considers important in his way of seeing architecture, in order to be complete. He names these three points, appendages. Still in a similarity between architecture and the human body.
The first is architecture as “environment”, as “framing”. Zumthor is always seduced by the fact of creating a building, big or small, and that this one takes part context, environment. Architecture coexists with a place, a context. Building lives in this place and influenced by its presence. He also points out that the buildings come to life and connect with the people who live there. The buildings take part in the people’s lives, places where kids grow up. Zumthor seems excited by the fact that one of his works can come back into memory at someone in several years thanks to the memories of this past era and the experience of the nobody at that time.
The second point is called “coherence” or “consonance”. It’s more the side of sensations here and not the accuracy of a building that can be judged from the point of view of the trade of “architect. In this theme, he wants to talk about the decisions that must be taken as an architect. All these occasions that an architect had to answer during his job. Here is really the fact of succeeding in designing a building that responds correctly to program and use requested. The beauty of the object is not just formal, it is also revealed by its use, of by the sensations that the building provides. Zumthor is seduced by the fact that things become what they really are once in their place. Quality in architecture is when everything is in its place, everything seems to be coherent For Zumthor, space is dynamic, it is discovered, it is paced, it is experienced, it is feels. The architecture of Zumthor is timid, it is not totally discovered at the first look, you have to discover it for yourself, to cross it.
The third part, “the beautiful form”. Form, is a thing that comes last in Zumthor, or rather that stems from all that has just been mentioned. The form would not have could have been imagined from the beginning because it is the whole process of its reflection that on a precise form, unique in a specific place. Even if the form comes last, it still causes a sensation of “beauty” for the one who looks at it, the shape comes from the whole process upstream and it is this harmony that makes everything pleasant, handsome “. For the Swiss architect, minimalist form and simplicity are the order of the day.
ZUMTHOR Peter, 2003.Atmospheres. Architectural Environments – Surrounding Objects,
– ZUMTHOR Peter, 2007, Thinking Architecture.
– BERTIN, Alice, 2015. Peter Zumthor. From place to reality. Thesis ? National School
superior architecture of Nantes.
Conclusion : ( Zumthor’s constructive thought )
After the 9 key points and the 3 appendices quoted above, we can admit a thought constructive at the heart of his projects. A global reflection, coherent in all. The materiality of the building is one of the key points of this vision. He never leaves aside the basis of all its projects, the buildings that it designs contribute to the production of experiences, memories, emotions, sensations. Its buildings are designed for the purpose to be lived, used, so that man takes root. He therefore takes great care that each of his projects fits perfectly with the initial program. It is also important to attach great importance to every constructive detail, its, smell, temperature, objects that make up a building, everything is at its place, with accuracy and harmony. “The great challenge of architecture is to form a whole from countless elements which differ in their function and their form, in their material and their dimension “.
When we speak of a whole, it is not only about the architectural object in itself but also take into account the context in which the building is located, interact with it from the best way, take into consideration the place. “… when things are found themselves, they form a consonance. So everything refers to everything and you cannot take anything away. The place, the use and the form. The form refers to the place, the place is like that and the use refers to this and that Zumthor also respects the local territory and its context, it never erases it. He uses it and puts it forward to create a harmony between the building and its context. Taking Awareness of local culture and habits is also paramount at home. His While the design process is slow, everything is being done to quality and respectful.