Pritzker-winning architect Peter Zumthor has been announced as the recipient of the 2013 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by the Queen of England and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence on the advancement of architecture.
Known for running a small yet powerful and uncompromising practice, Peter Zumthor founded his award-winning firm in 1979 in Switzerland. His most celebrated projects include the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, the Therme Vals (thermal baths) in Vals, Switzerland and the Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne. He designed London’s 2011 Serpentine Pavilion and is currently designing a house in Devon for philosopher Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture architect-designed holiday home scheme.
RIBA President Angela Brady, who chaired the Honors Committee which selected the Royal Gold medal winner said, “Peter Zumthor’s work renews the link with a tradition of modern architecture that emphasizes place, community and material practice. His writings dwell upon the experience of designing, building and inhabitation while his buildings are engaged in a rich dialogue with architectural history. I will be delighted to present him with the Royal Gold Medal.”
In his book Thinking Architecture, published by Birkhäuser, Zumthor set down in his own words a philosophy of architecture: “I believe that architecture today needs to reflect on the tasks and possibilities which are inherently its own. Architecture is not a vehicle or a symbol for things that do not belong to its essence. In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. I believe that the language of architecture is not a question of a specific style. Every building is built for a specific use in a specific place and for a specific society. My buildings try to answer the questions that emerge from these simple facts as precisely and critically as they can.”
Zumthor's many awards include the Heinrich Tessenow Medal, Technical University, Hanover, 1989; Carlsberg Architectural Prize, Copenhagen, 1998; Bündner Kulturpreis, Graubünden, 1998; Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture, Barcelona, 1998; Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award, Wood in Culture Association, Finland, 2006; Prix Meret Oppenheim, Federal Office of Culture, Switzerland, 2006; Praemium Imperiale, Japan Art Association, 2008; DAM Prize for Architecture in Germany, 2008 and The Pritzker Architecture Prize, The Hyatt Foundation, 2009 (previously on Bustler).
The Royal Gold Medal was inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1848 and is conferred annually by the Sovereign on ‘some distinguished architect for work or high merit, or on some distinguished person whose work has promoted either directly or indirectly the advancement of architecture.’
Previous winners have included Sir Charles Barry, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Berthold Lubetkin, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito, Herzog & de Meuron, Alvaro Siza, I. M. Pei, Sir David Chipperfield, and Herman Hertzberger.
Peter Zumthor will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal on February 6, 2013 at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, during which the 2013 RIBA International and Honorary Fellowships will also be presented.
This year’s RIBA Honors Committee was chaired by RIBA President Angela Brady with architects Peter Clegg, Yvonne Farrell, Professor Adrian Forty, Niall McLaughlin and Sarah Wigglesworth.