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Therme Vals, Vals, Switzerland

Location: Poststrasse 560, 7132 Vals, Switzerland
Year built: 1996
Architect: Peter Zumthor
Photographer: Fernando Guerra 

Nestled in the picturesque valleys of Graubunden Canton, Switzerland, lies a hotel and spa discreetly integrated into the rugged terrain of the Graubunden Canon. The spa facilities, resembling the ambiance of a cave, are thoughtfully embedded into the mountainside, harmoniously blending with the natural surroundings. The location of the spa allows for users to immerse themselves in the invigorating mountain air, whilst listening out for the distant sounds of cowbells, creating a serene and natural hot spring experience.  

Concealed amidst the slopes of the meadows and lush green landscapes, the site appears to be almost invisible, with its grass roof. A winding tunnel from the hotel leads to the entrance of the spa.  

Architect Peter Zumthor meticulously crafted the spa using local materials, with the foundation constructed from Valier quartzite stone sourced from the region. He artfully contemplated how the architecture would seamlessly blend into the mountainous landscape, ensuring the location nestled perfectly within the curves and crevices of the terrain. To complement the stone surfaces, a harmonious contrast is created with the use of homogenous concrete and polished terrazzo. 

The spa building comprises 15 interconnected units with cantilevering concrete roofs, resembling a jigsaw puzzle. This layout is designed to facilitate seamless circulation between units while still allowing guests the freedom to explore beyond the designated paths. The partially connected cantilevering roofs play with light and shadow, creating a luxurious and dynamic atmosphere. The use of negative space enhances the flow of the building, adding to the overall experience. 

The bathing rituals are a sensory journey of varying temperatures, stunning views, and the interplay of light and shadow. Zumthor deliberately excluded clocks in his initial design to evoke the sensation that time has come to a standstill. The spa embodies an experience where the ordinary is transcended, and guests can lose themselves in a world of sensory wonder, enhanced by the remarkable qualities of stone.  

“The stone wall elements harmoniously complement the design, evoking the desired cave-like ambiance. The overall atmosphere is enriched by seamlessly integrated discreet lighting techniques throughout the building. The thoughtful selection of materials, including a mix of stone, concrete, and terrazzo, as well as brass tapware and door ware, further enhances the overall guest experience. Tucked away in the mountains, it provides a serene and wanderlust-inducing escape.” – Jessica Wei 

 Images courtesy of © Fernando Guerra