Thermes Vals AT 7132 Hotel
Praised as one of the best completed works by 2009 Pritzker Laureate Peter Zumthor, the Vals Thermal Baths might be one of the most iconic buildings in Swiss contemporary architecture. As testament to the immediacy of its recognition as an architectural masterpiece, Therme Vals was listed as a historical building just 2 years after it’s completion in 1996.
Nestled in the remote Valsertal Valley, surrounded by the monumental Adula Mountains in the Central Alps, the small mountain village of Vals benefits from a truly picturesque location.
Peter Zumthor’s baths were built with 60,000 of the local quartzite stone slabs: the Valser Gneiss.
This stone was made into 1 meter long strips which were applied horizontally. The variations in colour between segments and the staggered arrangement makes these stone walls look like silvered timber cladding.
Therme Vals is monolithic yet strangely unimposing, and despite many of the inner sanctums of the building being largely windowless and maze-like in composition, no feelings of claustrophobia are invoked.
The enormously high ceilings throughout the structure do a lot to combat this, and perhaps the overtly brutalist aspects of such a building were averted through the use of contrasting strips of natural stone, which add a textile quality to the walls.
As if they were a natural occurrence, the façades appear as plain cuts into a large porous slab of stone that seem to emerge slightly from the natural topography, in search of light. They are the natural elevation of a precise cut into the interior cavern system of the baths.
Engaging in the ancient ritual of bathing amidst the chiseled stones of Vals Thermal Baths is definitely rewards its visitors with the rare pleasure of experiencing a genuine example of timeless architecture.