Monday, March 14, 2011

Peter Zumthor: Architect

Peter Zumthor
(Image from The New York Times)

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?

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At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know much about beauty or philosophy, and how it realates to architecture, music, poetry, prose and art.

I was told while doing construction and house building that form follows function.
When I looked at some of the old buildings of various kinds in these hills, I thought that the only interest of the builder was function, rather than beauty or form.
But in those days, survival was the principal guiding force. Sometimes form wasn't much of a concern.

Philosophical musings weren't high on the list, either.

Perhaps JK could expand on these thoughts.


At 6:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yet, there are a few lovely old buildings in the Ozarks, so studying those with the question of form and function might offer some insights.

The old church where Sun-Ae and I got married was a lovely work of architecture.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:02 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

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

This is THE Method.

"I think the chance of finding beauty is higher if you don't work on it directly..."

He is right. That's what the ancient Romans did.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The modern Romans should hearken to the voices of those ancient ones . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Cran,

I can only say that my efforts to find (perhaps more properly -discern) beauty is a form of architecture that's not easy to explain. Mostly because the "architecture" I refer to doesn't apply strictly to what a carpenter would call a structure - house, building, parking lot, etc.

Neither is it "poetry" although my own way of describing what I consider beauty has been likened (by some) to "poetry in action".

Beauty it would seem, truly is, "in the eye of the beholder."


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

All the more reason to have an oculus . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn. I misuderstood what that feller told me awhile back - now how the hell am I gonna get rid of this tank of water where my octopus stays?

Looks like I need to keep a constant supply of batteries for my hearing aids.


At 8:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Oculus, octopus, what does it matter? -- both are sharp-eyed.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well for one thing an oculus wouldn't require feeding. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get an Arkansas grocery store to stock octopus food?


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, even an oculus can be hard to maintain in rainy weather . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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