How the things are: Peter Zumthor`s models or about a strange architectural creations cabinet.

How the things are: Peter Zumthor`s models or about a strange architectural creations cabinet. By: Gonzalo Carrasco Purull + Pedro Livni.

«Today everything is pure verbiage,» complains an annoying Peter Zumthor correspondent of The New York Times, Michael Kimmelman in an interview published on 28 March. For the Swiss architect – winner of the Pritzker Prize 2009 – the architects have forgotten today how we do things, and how to do well. While architects as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe came from a tradition where they «knew how things were done, now for Zumthor» All architects want to be philosophers or artists «rather than architects.

Zumthor’s complaint is against a default – mainly carried out by schools of architecture – one of the strongest features of the profession, as is knowing how things are made and how are you are perceived through different scales appearing in a project. Zumthor believes knowledge that still persists in the world of «crafmanship», with its suggestion that forcing universities to become carpenters, cabinetmakers and craftsmen of leather rather than architects.
However, the particular entry that Zumthor made of architecture is reflected in the tools that he chooses to tackle their projects. Tools within which highlights the extensive use of large-scale models.

Model kits (and verify).
This resource – the large-scale model – although at first it was within the exclusive domain of the discipline, eventually went on to become the primary means of communication between architect and client. Thus, the model architecture became a kind of contract to the customer, which from a number of mechanisms of seduction, was offered a promising future. Where the work would then be the realization of what the model offered. Hence, the primary way in which models were presented, was to serve the customer or investor view: the models were built from the point of view of a subject, usually standing, which provided the model from an aerial view. Being a long time, is the position where not only setting out the works, but more importantly, the focus from which were projected.
This convention about how the architect conceived his models, appears to be subverted by the models produced in the workshop of Peter Zumthor. These more than being made to seduce a client or investor, are designed for verification by the architect, of those features that are beyond the technical drawing. To fix the leaking, which Zumthor need to build their models. Models where Zumthor adjust the position of the subject – usually located at a point on this – to locate it in the midst of this change.
And is that what you want to check Peter Zumthor is not part of the realm of the quantifiable, but on the contrary, falls squarely within the field of quality. One area where Zumthor experience is translated in the identification of a number of atmospheres. Where the shape is just one of the variables in play, while incorporating the qualities of a particular temperature, a specific sound, as well as the many perceptions of touch that are activated each time a work is experienced.
What Zumthor return models is the role these representations play in the specific area of ​​the architect. Where they are no longer objects of seduction, to become artifacts of verification. And what is verifiable Zumthor, is what is often beyond the other systems of representation of the architecture. What escapes and what they want to catch Zumthor models are the atmospheres that they trigger.

Models, matrix or what?
But are they really models, built in the workshop Zumthor?
Yes and no.
Yes, if we mean any model small-scale production of a future work. But are models in the contemporary sense of the term?
Take for example the model developed for the Museum of Art Cologne ( This is supported on a structure of steel. From the outside the model shown as a box introverted, which is input from haptic properties of smoothness and roughness. Two three-tiered prismatic scales located under and beside the podium, used to power up and «look» and «from the inside.» Thus the «immersion» – a kind of perception – is superimposed on other ways much more mediated approach.

But what do they seek to verify these fabrications?
There was a time when the models are also approximated by the «immersion.» In the fifteenth century Florence, this was the way you relate to these representations. Famous models were sent to be built by Brunelleschi for the construction of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiori. There was a large-format even located inside the church itself. Wooden structures, built by master carpenters, they served mainly to architects and builders as a verification tool. Verification and control, where nothing should be left to chance, but instead should be determined in advance.
Brunelleschi is known that the perception of a specific subject was extremely important in their models. These could not be in any way. And the approach chosen was anyone but the chance to see these fabrications from the top, as if they were objects. Brunelleschi models resisted their objectification, but were sensitive mechanisms, which were directed to both the eye and hand, and the intellect. What was not only verified the logic of construction – the deployment of the means which enable the works – but the qualities that these systems expand in the constructed work. Eye, hand, eye, in a circular motion was aware of what is always beyond the drawing, what ends up filling the works.
Thus, rather than models, Zumthor fabrications can be read from this key. Where the model works more like an array, a mold that looks to be filled. What about filling what? Filling this elusive subject of quality in architecture, in the words of Zumthor is crystallized in the term «atmosphere.»

A strange architectural creations cabinet.

Thus understood, these «molds» and «matrix» architecture, return ownership of the models to the full scope of the architect. Are reintegrated into the crucible of architecture, leaving the role of seduction currently have. Models constructed not as tools of verification, but rather as a means to seduce a jury, an investor, a commission, an authority or a customer. A relationship where the work objectified in the form of the model is viewed from an elevated point, from the perspective of the client. Zumthor however, takes architecture back to the land, although this shift requires the subject that provides for it, go through «immersion» to these representations.
Zumthor as a monk who choose to leave the century, has chosen to return to the architecture to a time where it was still considered a type of «craftmanship.» So it is not trivial Zumthor recrimination that makes young architects. And let alone the requirement that universities are more than architects, carpenters, saddlers, carpenters. Because Zumthor comes from that tradition. One tradition makes his workshop to become – for the times that we are – in a strange architectural creations cabinet. VKPK.

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