26 April 1943 |
Carlsberg Architectural Prize (1998)
Praemium Imperiale (2008)
Pritzker Prize (2009)
Royal Gold Medal (2013)
Architecture to me is whole. I cannot say I only care about this 25% and the other 75% I let go… it's just I want to work the way I want to work. In my shop, you can order certain things and other things you cannot. They are not available.
Designing is a matter of concentration. You go deep into what you want to do. It's about intensive research, really. The concentration is warm and intimate and like the fire inside the earth – intense but not distorted. You can go to a place, really feel it in your heart. It's actually a beautiful feeling.
My first buildings, when I was about 30, were rejected for aesthetic reasons.
Architecture has its place in the concrete world. This is where it exists. This is where it makes its statement.
I need a close contact to the client, whoever it is, and a commitment of the client to go out and do a process together. I want to do the best for him. I need his respect and his patience. I want to work with a sophisticated person who's interested in a good building and not in my name.
My relationship to plants becomes closer and closer. They make me quiet; I like to be in their company.
Architecture is exposed to life. If its body is sensitive enough, it can assume a quality that bears witness to past life.
If you're lucky, and a building succeeds, the real product has many more dimensions than you can ever imagine. You have the sun, the light, the rain, the birds, the feel.
There is still a real need for good quality architecture, not paper architecture, but the real stuff.
Normally, architects render a service. They implement what other people want. This is not what I do. I like to develop the use of the building together with the client, in a process, so that as we go along we become more intelligent.
What I try to do is the art of building, and the art of building is the art of construction; it is not only about forms and shapes and images.
If, early on, you know how things are put together, then you can build. The architect is in charge of making – he is not an artist.
I can't be bought with money. If someone calls me and asks me to work for them for three or four years, and they'll pay me well to build their vacation home, I ask myself why I should work three or four years on something like that.
The bottom line may be that my inventing buildings is, indeed, a very private kind of activity. But it's done to be shared. It is comforting and consoling. From the reactions I get I can see I'm not doing something strange.
You feel a certain way in a glass or concrete or limestone building. It has an effect on your skin – the same with plywood or veneer, or solid timber. Wood doesn't steal energy from your body the way glass and concrete steal heat. When it's hot, a wood house feels cooler than a concrete one, and when it's cold, the other way around.
I think space, architectural space, is my thing. It's not about facade, elevation, making image, making money. My passion is creating space.
I work a little bit like a sculptor. When I start, my first idea for a building is with the material. I believe architecture is about that. It's not about paper, it's not about forms. It's about space and material.
I work anywhere between three and 10 years on a project, depending on the size. My lifetime is finite. Therefore, I have to look carefully at how many projects I want to put into my lifetime.
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.
Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place. I think of gardens I have seen, that I believe I have seen, that I long to see, surrounded by simple walls, columns, arcades or the facades of buildings – sheltered places of great intimacy where I want to stay for a long time.
If I look at history, it seems that most wars and most cruel things have been done by men and not by women.
I've built two wooden houses near Vals. I built them for my wife. Those were private projects.
If you look at the Earth without architecture, it's sometimes a little bit unpleasant. So there is this basic human need to do shelter in the broadest sense of the word, whether it's a movie theater or a simple log cabin in the mountains. This is the core of architecture: To provide a space for human beings.
I am convinced that a good building must be capable of absorbing the traces of human life and taking on a specific richness… I think of the patina of age on materials, of innumerable small scratches on surfaces, of varnish that has grown dull and brittle, and of edges polished by use.
I design for the use of a building and the place and for the people who use it… the reputation for arrogance comes because when work is offered to me, I look whether I can find a genuine interest in quality.
I grew up in a craftsman's home, where things were done with our own hands. I did cabinetmaking for four years and I hated it.
I think the chance of finding beauty is higher if you don't work on it directly. Beauty in architecture is driven by practicality. This is what you learn from studying the old townscapes of the Swiss farmers.
The first 10 years of my professional life had only to do with running away from my father. He was a wonderful cabinet-maker, and me being the eldest son, I had to take over his shop, his profession and so on and so on. I tried to escape by going to art school and then going on to industrial design and then interior design.
My buildings should have an emotional core – a space which, in itself, has an emotional nice feeling.
When I concentrate on a specific site or place for which I am going to design a building, I try to plumb its depths, its form, its history and its sensuous qualities.
I'm not mainly interested in what buildings mean as symbols or vehicles for ideas.