Peter Zumthor makes little noise. The Swiss architect has for over a half-century produced his serious, transcendental work barely leaving the Grison Alps, making anyone wanting to see him pilgrim to his remote refuge, with the result that he is venerated like a pious hermit. But in the summer of 2017 his pristine block on the shores of Lake Constance marked 20 years, and the Kunsthaus of Bregenz proposed to get him to host the series of events to celebrate the anniversary.
The architect obliged and organized Dear to Me, a program where “only dance is missing” and which 5 years later (his time-spans lie outside the sphere of the instantaneous) has crystallized in the publication of 17 conversations that took place parallel to the agenda of exhibitions, lectures, and musical performances. Far from acting like an elusive Gatsby, at his own party Zumthor was like his compatriot Madame de Staël: a gracious salonnier who in the museum, his Château de Coppet, welcomed an assortment of friends to converse with on the human and divine, even taking questions from the public.
Like all Zumthor works, the book is wrapped in an aura that is as exquisite as its price, though this time a smart black case contains 18 notebooks (the conversations plus an introduction) that are, surprisingly, simply stapled. But the true worth is in dialogues where he explores interests and processes with other authors and erudites of the highest order: an intellectual drumroll that for a while took the evasive master out of hiding.