On the (Im)Possibility of Portraying Architects

written by Vera Grimmer


If we agree that the architect’s work is inseparable from his/her personality, it follows that to understand a certain work we must be familiar with its author. Clearly, we are only talking about the famous five percent of everything that has  been built. One could also say that to become familiar with the author, just one work should suffice. From the example of Zumthor’s Brother Klaus Field Chapel, we can learn a lot about his method of positioning architectural objects in a landscape, about his attachment to Semper’s idea of the tent as a primordial, archetypal form of construction, about the effect the built environment has on all our senses, about the feeling of protectiveness in a dark and warm shelter, as well as about many other things and phenomena. But, all this cannot fully explain to us—if such an explanation is even possible—the Kolumba Art Museum, or the Monument to burnt witches at the North Sea coast.