Peter Zumthor Atmospheres Reflections

Summary and Thoughts

Okay obviously this reading is done by someone who really really loves architecture. He is basically saying that architecture and designed spaces are like poetry. Because different places make you feel a different sort of way . This is put in place through the elements found in a place all coming together in a beautiful amalgamation and this feeling that we get from a place usually comes to us almost immediately. This is not by chance. It is by design and through careful consideration of multiple different factors. And we know that he REALLY loves architecture and spaces because he is able to meticulously breakdown and analyse every small detail about a place. Now he goes on to break down how he designs a space and I think his methodology can easily be applied to other crafts too.


  1. The Body of Architecture : Here he is telling us to go back to the essence of what we are making, the basic structure, the backbone of something. Here naturally, different materials can evoke different emotions and different meaning.
  2. Material Compatibility : Now it is not just choosing the materials that is important but is considering how different materials work together. Like alchemy, different combinations produce different effects. And another key thing to note is the proximity of one to the other. After a certain distance, the effects of having two materials together will be diminished.
  3. The Sound of a Space :  The materials used and how the space is designed will greatly affect how the space captures sound and throws it back to the audience. And sound greatly affects how we tune into a place.
  4. The temperature of a Space: Here he isn’t just talking about the physical temperature of a space (although this is important too), but the mood of a place too. You you temper a place to give off a certain mood. I think here a good example would be the flower dome that we have. The indoor temperature there is just so vastly different from the normal outside temperature that we face everyday that the physical temperature itself helps invoke a sense of wonder and amazement. (of course temperature here also has its practical purposes that is to keep the plants alive)
  5. Surrounding Objects :For Peter Zumthor, imagining the items that will inhabit the space that he has designed will help him imagine the kind of place it would be in the future. Needless to say, the items found within a place speaks a thousand words about its occupants. For example, like entering someone’s room. You can learn a lot about the person from what items are present, what items are not and how everything is placed.
  6. Between Composure and Seduction : Here he is telling us to consider how people would walk around the space that you have designed as this greatly affects how they perceive a space. For example someone strolling through a space vs someone rushing through a space have very different perceptions of the space they just went through. This is obviously very important for us Interactive Media students. If we are doing interactive installations, how someone walks through the space is very much part of how someone will interact with the installation. Even for games, this is very important for level design. How someone traverses the level you have created greatly affects their experience of the game.
  7. Tension Between Interior and Exterior: The space you have designed is not a bubble that is detached from  the rest of the world. When designing a space, we must consider its surroundings and other spaces surrounding it. Take for example when designing a new modern building in a historical area. Ignoring the cultural importance of the surrounding area is just a disaster waiting to happen.
  8. Level of Intimacy:  Here he describes it as proximity and scale. How I understand it is, if something were built for giants (eg. High ceilings) the place feels more grand and spacious, but more colder. While a space that is smaller in scale (eg, a home) can feel warmer and more personal.
  9. The Light of Things : How light enters a space (or the lack there of) can greatly affect its mood. This takes me back to learning about the architecture of religious spaces in art history. For example, the architecture of early christian churches were heavy with small thin windows, as the religion was focused on being solemn. But as the religion changed and celebration was seen as being thankful to God’s bounty, we see the emergence of Rose Windows and Stained Windows to change how Light enters the churches.

To be able to break down something so systematically is proof of how much love you have for your craft because when you stop to scrutinize everything about it, shows that you care. I feel that sometimes, we might be too far focused, ignoring the “small things” as we deem It unimportant, or a hassle to think over. But it is these small things when put together that greatly affect our works and definitely warrants our attention. And we should stop and dissect our own craft too, to be able to understand it fully. It is like taking apart an electrical component and putting it back together again

To Peter Zumthor, architecture isn’t just building an inanimate object. It’s building a place where people would revolve their lives around. Where memories will be created. And I think this is really beautiful. We should all strive too find a higher meaning within the works we do, just as Zumthor does.



At the beginning of the reading Peter Zumthor states that the initial instantaneous reaction we have to a place greatly dictates the impression we have on it. (As first impressions do on many other things). But as artist who designs interactivity, maybe we can play around with first impressions and subvert them through the linear thought they would have after. I firmly believe that this can open the doors to very interesting experiences.

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