In this black-and-white photograph of Bruder Klaus Field Chapel, designed by Peter Zumthor, the architect’s simple building interrupts a stark landscape. Completed in 2007, the single-room chapel was designed for local farmers in rural Mechernich, Germany. Its construction method is unique: first, concrete was poured in layers around a spire-shaped wooden frame composed of tree trunks, then that framework was burnt away, leaving behind charred walls and a hollow, blackened cavity open to the sky above. The Pritzker Prize–winning architect has described his buildings as imbued with “composure, self-evidence, durability, presence, and integrity, and with warmth and sensuousness as well.” These characteristics are at the heart of the chapel’s design, an iconic exterior form that encases an organic, even primordial, interior.
As photographed by Binet, the structure registers as a monolith rising from a seemingly barren land. The photograph’s bold chiaroscuro and austere composition—the low horizon line, the looming tower—produce a nearly abstract architectural portrait of Zumthor’s work. Binet shoots exclusively on film, and the fine-grained detail of this gelatin silver print highlights the complex texture of the chapel’s concrete layers while emphasizing the lengthening shadows and disappearing light. Binet, who once remarked on the close relationship of both architecture and photography to memory, often attempts to uncover and reveal the essence of a place—a tendency particularly suited to the depiction of Zumthor’s atmospheric and timeless work.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)