It is by no means a minor aspect that Peter Zumthor’s office is located in a small village in Switzerland with a population of barely a thousand people. He seems to be in search of a distance between his practice and global architectural trends, without abandoning a contemporary reflection on architecture. Such distance may be seen in the way he deals with materials and the way he deals with time.
Zumthor’s work has paid special attention to construction, material, and craft. This attention to construction is not limited, however, to the physical quality of the object, even though his knowledge of matter is deep and the rules that generate forms are a clear consequence of the logic of the material. Whether in stone, wood, concrete, or glass, Zumthor’s work shows a great concern for the experience of
materials: temperature, weight, scent, light. In this intensified notion of construction there is a principle of universality. Unlike architectures that rely on technology to be produced, making any copy of such buildings without the same resources rather pathetic, Zumthor’s universality makes his projects familiar, even in distant contexts, allowing his approach to architecture to achieve a global reach.
On the other hand, he takes much more time to deliver a project than conventional (global, corporate) standards. He uses time as an antidote to probably one of the biggest threats for contemporary architects, which is to copy oneself.
The LACMA project is yet further proof of his consistency; once again he explores a language that one would not have expected from him. By taking time, Zumthor has the ability to face each project as if it was the first. It is no surprise, then, that his projects exhibit a variety of languages, forms, and geometries, barely transposing a formula from one project to another. Such attention is extremely important in the fight against the homogenization of our built environment and consequently the homogenization of our lives.