Peter Zumthor wins RIBA Gold Medal

Thursday 27 Sep 2012

Legendary architect Peter Zumthor is to receive the RIBA's highest honour

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the RIBA, one of the highest honours in the architecture and design world. Personally approved by Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Gold Medal is a celebration of a lifetime’s achievement in the profession and recognises an individual’s influence ‘either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture’.

Speaking on this morning’s announcement, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which selects the Royal Gold Medal recipient said: “Peter Zumthor’s work renews the link with a tradition of modern architecture that emphasises place, community and material practice. His writings dwell upon the experience of designing, building and inhabitation while his buildings are engaged in a rich dialogue with architectural history. I will be delighted to present him with the Royal Gold Medal.”

Zumthor has enjoyed a long and varied career in architecture and design, beginning his journey as a cabinet maker with his father in Basel. He swiftly moved on to the field of architecture with stints at Kunstgewerbeschule Basel and the Pratt Institute before landing a position at the Department for the Preservation of Monuments at the Canton of Graubunden. His practice Architekturburo Peter Zumthor was established in 1979.

Over the years Zumthor has completed a number of respected works including the Therme Vals (thermal baths) in Vals, Switzerland and the Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne. Most recently he realised his first project in the UK, the 2011 Serpentine Pavilion which is soon to be followed by a residence in Devon. The temporary structure was an open-topped black box sporting a wide skylight which enabled a meadow-like expanse of foliage inside to flourish.

Externally one of the more simplistic Serpentine Pavilions, Zumthor’s creation concentrated more on the experience provided to visiting Londoners than aesthetic complexities, as WAN’s Arts and Media Correspondent Amy Knight reported at the time: “It isn't jaw-droppingly stunning, nor does it boast a bold, self-conscious signature style - but it still makes a powerful statement. Zumthor has unearthed the art of architecture and is nurturing it back to life, rediscovering what it means to be an architect - by erecting walls, you are essentially creating a space. And it is this space, the absence between walls, in which one truly experiences the architecture.”

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