A Review of the Swiss Pavilion, ‘Sound Box’ in Hanover

Interior Labyrinth

Interior Bar Area

Interior Sitting Area


Peter Zumthor (born 26 April 1943 in Basel) is a world-known Swiss architect and publisher, winner of many awards such us RIBA Royal Gold Medal, Pritzker Prize and European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. His buildings explore the tactile and sensory qualities of spaces and materials while retaining a minimalist feel.


Hanover, Germany

Building Size

3019 square meters


153 Days,

99 stacks,

144 kilometers of unseasoned wood,

50 ways in - 50 ways back

Swiss Pavilion 'Sound Box' Hanover

   In my second exemplary project this year I have decided to write about the Swiss Pavilion ‘Sound Box’ which I had a chance to see a few years ago, during one of my trips through the Europe. The building was designed specifically for the 2000 Expo in Hannover, Germany by Swiss architect Peter Zumthort, who is a well renowned for his respect and love for materials.

   The temporary construction was designed according to the main theme of the exhibition, sustainability. Constructed out of 144 kilometers of unseasoned wood (sustainably and responsibly harvested), with a cross section of 20x10cm, in total building consists of 45,000 boards and 2,800 cubic meters of larch and Douglas pine from Swiss forests. What is interesting is that the pavilion was assembled without any glue, bolts or nails. Its 9 meter high walls divide up the internal spaces according to a complex maze-like logic, while ceilings made of larch beams rest on vertical beams of Scotch pine. They were hold in place by steel cables connected to spring tie rods with an elegant minimal design ‘following the nature of the wood as a changing, living material’. After the closure of the Expo, the building was dismantled and the beams were sold as a seasoned timber.

   The main idea for the design, was to offer something specific and useful to the Expo visitors, who would be tired from studying all the theoretical and virtual informations in the other national pavilions. The concept was to design a welcoming place to rest and relax, a place offering a traditional Swiss snacks for thirsty or hungry visitors, with a relaxed atmosphere and a live music rambling around.

   Zumthort main intention was to create an ideal combination of performing art, music, drama, and decor into a form of ‘total theater’. This effect was accomplished through the aesthetics of the building and its structure, also as a result of the modular textures of the continuous, regular chiaroscuro effect of the wooden boards and the gaps between them, which draw a horizontal score contradicted on the inside by the height of the dividing walls. The result is a harmonious, balanced architecture, in which the theme of stacked wood is a continual reminder of the building's ephemeral vocation.

   What I liked the most was the idea of using one primary element for a multitude of tasks. The way that the components were placed together allows for a beautiful quality of light and detailed composition. The space gave a sense of being handcrafted and intimately connected with the techniques from which it was constructed and the materials from which it was made. While visiting it was not hard to imagine the experience of visiting the Switzerland. The smell of local food, the feeling of raw wood and the sound of traditional music definitely helped in understanding the major values​of this country.  The resulting structures present us with environments where the feel, texture, colour, smell and sound of wood are given precedence over everything else.

   In my opinion the only negative thing was the fact that after six months the pavilion was demolished. Although most of the materials were recycled, its sad that such a  beautiful design could not be transferred somewhere else so more people could appreciate its fascinating interior.

Also I think that Swiss Pavilion is relevant to the field of Interior Architecture and Architecture in every aspect: the resulting structures present us with environments where the feel, texture, color, smell and sound of wood are given precedence over everything else. The building exemplify the use of timber in its most basic converted form and assembled in a way that emphasizes that form.