Care to stay in the home of internationally renowned Swiss architect (and Pritzker Prize winner) Peter Zumthor? Architectural enthusiasts are in luck: Zumthor recently started renting out Unterhus, one of two vacation cabins he built on a mountainside in the tiny Swiss hamlet of Leis. The adjacent second house, the Oberhus, is Zumthor's own retreat where he lives with his wife, Annalisa, who grew up in the area and had long pined for a mountain home.
His light, airy, narrow wooden structures are a modern take on the surrounding traditional architecture, the antithesis to one of Zumthor's most revered works, the Hotel Thermes Vals, located on the valley floor below and built from gray quartzite and concrete.
N.B.: Zumthor has recently completed a third cabin nearby, Türmlihus, that's newly available for rent. For more information, go to Zumthor Ferien Haeuser.
Photography by Hélène Binet.
Above: Zumthor's cabins are sited on a snowy incline. There's great skiing—and hiking—directly from the doorsteps; click here for info on winter sports in the area.
Above: Large windows open up to panoramic views and extend almost the width of the house.
Above: The walls are made from tongue and groove pine boards.
Above: In the living room, a small low window with a sliding shutter reveals the view outside.
Above: Zumthor's work is minimalist but rich with detail, with great attention paid to the woodwork (his father was a cabinetmaker by trade).
Above: A sliding panoramic window in the bedroom.
Above: Wood detailing is present throughout the house, including the bathroom, which even has a wooden sink. Another small window can be seen in the far wall.
Above: An outdoor seating area on a stone terrace for dining al fresco in warmer weather. Zumthor supplies guests with backpacks, thermos flasks, binoculars, hiking sticks, a local map, and the Handbuch Schweizer Alpen with detailed information on Alpine flora and fauna and geology.
Above: The village of Leis has just 20 inhabitants, and at 5,125 feet above sea level, it's the highest hamlet in the Vals area that's inhabited all year round.
Above: Zumthor used wood beam construction; the roof is clad in local granite slabs required by local building code. In lieu of a central beam, he used steel rods to pull together the wood-framed walls, leaving a space between the roof and the top of the house.
Above: The houses, viewed from across the valley.
If, like us, you can't get enough of Peter Zumthor, take a look at his book Thinking Architecture. The ultimate Swiss vacation? Combine a stay in one of Zumthor's cabins with a visit to Vals Thermal Spa, his monumental resort design.
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 6, 2013 as part of our On the Mountain issue.