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essay for 

More and more we are used to see the architectural sketches of Peter Märkli: from simple charcoal rectangular stains to painted houses on a hill. Architecture exhibitions, magazines and publications tend to enhance this crafty and uncommitted part of his work.

As in many other architectural practices, it is the first part of a design process. But in this particular case, it reveals a surprising freedom of thoughts, materialised in paper. At first sight, it appears to lack scale, proportions, these sketches may even look clumsy, almost like they were drawn by some six or seven year-old children. Nevertheless, these kind of drawings are sufficient for this early design stage. They represent an idea, and no more than that, the first thing that comes of someones’ mind: pure, untouched by any exterior constraints, like a new-born baby. Following this, all the external inputs are then soaked. From budget, regulations, even engineers and contractors, they all shape this drawn idea, in order to produce a final outcome. The curious thing about Märkli’s built works is that, when compared to his sketches, they are evocative of an artisanal building process similar to the act of drawing.

Märkli, Peter - Haus Kuehnis (klein) façade

Courtesy of Drawing Matter Collections

This is especially evident on his two single-family houses in Trübbach and also in the Atelierhouse Rumisberg. From the roughness of material, apparently rude material joints, and basic material choices, everything ends in a brutal subtleness, as a built manifesto for what is essential in both architecture and living. Another thing that catch one’s attention is that the first house is built in 1982, and the second one in 2014, which demonstrates a coherence throughout years of practice. Sketching practice was never abandoned.


In the work of Peter Märkli, from design to building, our eyes are permanently unconscious victims of an early sketched idea, intellectually bounded to a final result.

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