“Peter Zumthor – Buildings and Projects 1986-2007” is an exhibition part of Experimentadesign Lisbon 2009. Featuring 29 projects, 5 large-scale models and a life-size video installation of 12 buildings (by the artists Nicole Six and Paul Petritsch), the exhibition gives an intriguing insight in the creative process of modelmaking that supports the creation of architecture. Stretching over almost 2000 m2 in LX Factory, an emerging cultural space in Lisbon, it takes place from September 7 to November 2, 2008.
The exhibition is produced by and presented in association with Kunsthaus Bregenz, where it was first shown in September 2007. After a visit to the new office of Embaixada Arquitectura (see their WallPaper-published Tomar-project, the Tomar Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation Offices (EMIO), a conversion of a run-down factory in a small town in the middle of Portugal), MovingCities visited the Peter Zumthor-exhibition.
More than giving an insight in the aesthetics of architecture and the organization of space, the exhibition gives the viewer an unique opportunity to observe the vicissitudes of architectural design. Zumthor has opted to present his projects as a strange cabinet of architectural creations, different models of one and the same project are presented next to each other, offering the visitor the opportunity to see spatial and material variations of the attempts to tame the creative process. As such the exhibition isn’t a celebration of the final creation, neither a catalogue of finished projects, but gives the viewer a glimpse into the laboratory of architectural design. With projects and models higlightening Zumthor’s great sense for scale, materiality, color, austerity and position, the exhibition brings to life an architectural in-between state, neither a finished nor a fossilized model room.
In a review of the same exhibition in 2007, Building Design published a review called “Peter Zumthor exhibition presents a reality check”. The author justifiably points out the difference between the architecture as process and project:
It is a testament to Zumthor’s work that the biggest problem with the exhibition is that it is no substitute for visiting the buildings themselves. For this reason, models of unfinished and terminated projects which have no real-life counterpart to compete with prove to be most interesting. The Topography of Terror exhibition centre proposal depicts just what could have been realised on the site of the former Gestapo HQ.
As such the presentation of one’s architecture as a series of projects, has been undermined by Peter Zumthor. Presenting a topography of textures, a creative collection of the culture of craftmanship and an insight in architectural indecision, the exhibition illustrates the basic principles underlying the work of Peter Zumthor, explained as follows:
His striking creations stem from a bedrock of meticulous draftsmanship, coherence and flawless conceptual quality. A staunch believer that architecture is made and meant to be experienced first hand, inhabited and used, Zumthor’s buildings are rooted in principles of sustainability, balanced integration in the natural surroundings and an extreme sensibility in the treatment and application of materials, drawing upon their tactile, plastic and reactive qualities.
Pictures by Mónica Carriço & Bert de Muynck | movingcities.org