by | 23. Aug 2012


Atmospheres is a poetics of architecture and a window onto Peter Zumthor’s personal sources of inspiration.

In nine short, illustrated chapters framed as a process of self-observation, Peter Zumthor describes what he has on his mind as he sets about creating the atmosphere of his houses.

Images of spaces and buildings that affect him are every bit as important as particular pieces of music or books that inspire him.

From the composition and “presence” of the materials to the handling of proportions and the effect of light, this poetics of architecture enables the reader to recapitulate what really matters in the process of house design.

Materials react with one another and have their radiance, so that the material composition gives rise to something unique. Material is endless.
(Material Compatibility)

8.zumthor.jpgPhoto © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
Bruder Klaus Chapel
Model of lead floor and water.

Interiors are like large instruments, collecting sound, amplifying it, transmitting it elsewhere. That has to do with the shape peculiar to each room and with the surface of materials they contain, and the way those materials have been applied.
(The Sound of a Space)

9.zumthor.jpgPhoto © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
Thermal Baths Vals

I believe every building has a certain temperature. We used a great deal of wood when we built the Swiss Pavilion for the Hanover World Fair. And when it was hot outside the pavilion was as cool as a forest, and when it was cool the pavilion was warmer than it was outside, although it was open to the air.
(The Temperature of a Space)

10.zumthor.jpgPhoto © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
Swiss Sound Box
Expo 2000, Hanover

The idea of things that have nothing to do with me as an architect taking their place in a building, their rightful place – it’s a thought that gives me an insight into the future of my buildings: a future that happens without me. That does me a lot of good. It’s a great help to me to imagine the future of rooms in a house I am building, to imagine them actually in use.
(Surrounding Objects)

11.zumthor.jpgPhoto © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
In Zumthor’s studio

Something else very special that fascinates me about architecture. A fantastic business, this. The was architecture takes a bit of the globe and constructs a tiny box of it. And suddenly there’s an interior and an exterior. Brilliant!
(Tension between Interior and Exterior)

12.zumthor.jpgPhoto © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
Domino de Pingus Winery

Thinking about daylight and artificial light I have to admit that daylight, the light on things, is so moving to me that I feel almost a spiritual quality. When the sun comes up in the morning – which I always find so marvellous, absolutely fantastic the way it comes back every morning – and casts its light on things, it doesn’t feel as if it quite belongs in this world. I don’t understand light. It gives me the feeling there’s something beyond me, something beyond all understanding. And I am very glad, very grateful that there is such a thing.
(The Light of Things)

13.zumthor.jpgPhoto © Architekturburo Zumthor, Haldenstein
Haus Zumthor, 2005
Silk curtains by Koho Mori

Peter Zumthor has described what really constitutes an architectural atmosphere as “this singular density and mood, this feeling of presence, well-being, harmony, beauty… under whose spell I experience what I otherwise would not experience in precisely this way.”