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Architectural anniversary Peter Zumthor turns 75: a dip into atmospheric architecture

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor celebrated his 75th birthday on Thursday. Known for buildings that are responsive to their location and function, he also considers very carefully which materials are used and the atmospheric quality of the spaces the buildings encompass. 

“Images, moods, a feeling for the place,” Zumthor said in an interview last year, when asked what inspires him. 

+ Peter Zumthor looks back on his life as an architect

Born on April 26, 1943, Zumthor grew up near Basel. Following an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker, he studied interior design and architecture at the School of Applied Arts in Basel and the Pratt Institute in New York. 

In 1979, after working as a building and planning consultant for canton Graubünden in eastern Switzerland, Zumthor established his own practice in Haldenstein, where he still works. 

He was a professor at the University of Italian-speaking Switzerland’s Academy of Architecture from 1996-2008 and has also held visiting professorships at several international universities, including the Harvard Graduate School of Design. 

He has received numerous prizes, including the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture (1998), Japan’s Praemium Imperiale (2008), the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often called the “Nobel Prize of architecture”, (2009) and the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal (2012). 

In 2017, he received the lifetime award from the Association of German Architects, the first non-German to receive the prize. “His consistent focus on the idea of light, material and space – plus his meticulous attention to detail and quality – give his work a timeless relevance,” the association said.  

Despite the accolades, Zumthor has said he aims to create buildings that become part of everyday life so that even people who don’t consider their architectural merit can enjoy them.

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