The Therme Vals

The Therme Vals, Switzerland, Peter Zumthor
Project year : 1996
Architect(s) :
Address : Poststraße 560, VALS, Switzerland
Latitude/Longitude : 46.622004,9.181206

The Therme Vals is built over the only thermal springs in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland and it works as a hotel and spa in one which combines a complete sensory experience designed by Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor designed the spa/baths which opened in 1996 to pre date the existing hotel complex. Creating a form of cave or quarry like structure was the idea. Below a grass roof structure half buried into the hillside, one can find the bath rooms that work with the natural surroundings. Layer upon layer of locally quarried Valser Quarzite slabs was used to build the Therme Vals. This stone became The driving inspiration for the design was this stone which is used with great dignity and respect.

Luxuriating and rediscovering the ancient benefits of bathing was the design of this space for visitors. A highly sensuous and restorative experience is made from the combinations of light and shade, open and enclosed spaces and linear elements. A carefully modelled path of circulation which leads bathers to certain predetermined points but lets them explore other areas for themselves is the underlying informal layout of the internal space. The perspective can always be controlled and a view is either denied or ensured through it.

There are so many notions guided by the architect like the fascination for the mystic qualities of a world of stone within the mountain, for darkness and light and, finally, for light reflections upon the water or in the steam saturated air. There is the pleasure in the unique acoustics of the bubbling water in a world of stone and also a feeling of warm stones and naked skin, the ritual of bathing. Their intention to work with these elements, to implement them consciously and to lend them to a special form was there from the outset. Flattering the human form (young or old) and give it space, a room in which to be, was the intention behind the design of the stone rooms, instead of competing with the body.