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lamentable scarcity

November 11, 2009

[TNR] Even more than is the case with any building, comprehending one by Zumthor requires you to be there. Worlds unto themselves, Zumthor’s buildings change your world. Pictures cannot show that. This man understands the difference between a building and a photograph, and he designs the former, not the latter.

Zumthor is known to be uncompromising when it comes to his designs, and he exhibits his work rarely. He also tries to maintain an ethical orientation to design and practice, working mainly on public and institutional projects, and repeatedly turning down lucrative offers from developers and private clients. This reluctance to engage in many of the profession’s customary practices and established rituals of self-promotion, combined with his contemplative and exacting approach to design and construction (which takes time and money), explains the lamentable scarcity of his realized projects, and why his work is not better known. Unlike most Pritzker winners, the list of Zumthor’s completed buildings is short, and the list of his unbuilt projects is long. (read)

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