Peter Zumthor: Architect
I like to read articles on things that I know nothing of to see if they spark ideas on things that I know something about, and I came upon an interesting statement by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor quoted by Michael Kimmelman in "The Ascension of Peter Zumthor" for The New York Times Magazine (March 11, 2011):
"I think the chance of finding beauty is higher if you don't work on it directly," Zumthor has said in describing his philosophy. "Beauty in architecture is driven by practicality. This is what you learn from studying the old townscapes of the Swiss farmers. If you do what you should, then at the end there is something, which you can't explain maybe, but if you are lucky, it has to do with life."I'm not entirely sure what to make of Zumthor's statement, but I find an elusive beauty in the images of his works within the Times article, so he must know what he's talking about even if I don't know for certain. I suspect he means that beauty cannot be readily grasped at in the abstract by the artist, but is better found through working within the constraints of deep experience, which informs the beauty that "has to do with life."
I know nothing of architecture, but I have a bit of experience with poetry, and I find some sense there to what Zumthor says. My most effective poems stem not from an attempt to write poetry, but from a need to express myself, within the framework offered by experience, upon the desire for something greater than what life ordinarily offers, given through what life has to offer.
Perhaps I'm not alone. What, for instance, is John Milton's Paradise Lost, if not an expression of that imperiled desire, an oculus of, and for, the blind?