The work of Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati is an exploration of the purity of form, material and aesthetic experience. He is committed to non-allusion design and refuses to create buildings that serve as public monuments or skyscrapers. However, he has been influenced by Modernism and Bauhaus, as well as Brutalism.
He studied architecture at ETH Zurich, and later worked in Los Angeles for a few years. After moving to Switzerland, he opened his own practice in 1996. In 2008, he relocated his office to the Alpine town of Flims.
He has designed 25 projects, mostly large, austere concrete structures. He has also produced a number of conceptual projects. His architecture is characterized by its use of ruddy brown walls, punctuated with star-shaped bas-relief figures.
A major solo exhibition of his work took place at the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo in 2012. Other work has been commissioned for Villa Alem in Portugal, the Schleife residential complex in Zug, and the Paspels School. Bayer's designs have been translated into nine languages. And in 2012, he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious prize in the field of architecture.
He recently published a book, Non-Referential Architecture, which defines seven principles of non-referential architecture. In addition, he is a professor of architecture at Harvard University.
Unlike many architects, he is very strict about what he will design. He does not accept commissions from individuals who do not align with his vision. Instead, he prefers to collaborate with a team of only 10. For example, he has designed the award-winning, windowless 3,000-square-foot concrete shell for the Pearling Site Museum in Bahrain.
The building is constructed from local, sourced materials. There is a geometric, stacked appearance to the exterior, with an elliptical opening on each floor. On the inside, the space is filled with a complex blend of light and dark spaces, with exposed concrete walls. An oblong pool sits in the middle of the site. This provides a focal point for visitors.
He has built a number of private residences, including his own. He has also built a music studio in a barn footprint for classical composer Linard Bardill in Scharans, Switzerland.
Most of Olgiati's buildings are made of tinted reinforced concrete. They appear to be cold from the outside, but they are warm from the inside. Depending on the time of day, the inside of the buildings can be very intimate or very large.
While Olgiati is a sui generis in the field of contemporary design, he has more influence on his peers than most prolific architects. His projects often incorporate elements of Bauhaus and Brutalism, and he has drawn inspiration from the monolithic rock pile structures of the Aztecs. But his designs are not limited to the abstract, and his structures are textbook examples of the properties of the various materials that he uses.
As a result, the projects he designs are not easily categorized. The structures have been characterized as being "intimate within, immobile without", with the internal layout creating different experiences depending on the time of day.