ISSUE 51  |  Winter's Tale

Poetry in Space: Vals Thermal Spa in Switzerland

December 26, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Christine Chang Hanway

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The Romans had the Baths of Caracalla, we have Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s Thermal Baths Vals. Built into the hillside of Graubünden, Switzerland, the quarry-like spa was named a national monument two years after its completion in 1996 (talk about fast-tracked). Let’s go there—now.

When the town of Vals, a canton of Graubünden, hired Zumthor to design their thermal baths, he was an undiscovered talent with experience in conservation architecture. The project put the architect and the baths on the map. Zumthor achieved cult status (he won the Pritzker Prize in 2009), and the baths became a mecca for architects around the world. Zumthor used his knowledge of rustic building materials to create a tactile and sensory series of modern spaces organized around the primal ritual of bathing, and the results are pure poetry in space.

For information about hotel accommodations, go to Therme Vals.

Above: A relaxation area overlooks the hills of Graubünden. Photograph via Flickr.

Above: The building was constructed of local Valser quartzite and concrete. Photograph via Open House.

Above: The spa has several bathing areas, both inside and outside. Photograph via Arch1101.

Above: Zumthor’s architecture provides a dramatic interface between nature and man. Photograph via ArchDaily.

Above: After undressing, the bather enters the baths ceremoniously by descending a perfectly proportioned stairway. Photograph via Velux Stiftung.

Above: The waters beckon. Photograph via Velux Stiftung.

Above: The building is organized around a series of cubic volumes that hold baths of different temperatures, showers, and places for sweating, drinking, and resting. Photograph via StudioEm.

Above: Swimming in the water brings the bather from one cubic volume to another. After arriving in the central bath, the bather can move on to the outdoor bath and then to the outdoor swimming areas. Photograph via Architizer.

Above: Daylight filters in through slits open to the sky. Photograph via Velux Stiftung.

Above: The outdoor bath, with a green roof, emerges out of the hillside. Photograph via ArqPres. For more information on the baths, go to Therme 7132.

More spas to add to your bucket list:

To see hundreds of Spa Baths at Home, go to the Remodelista gallery. Also check out:

This post is an update. The original ran in June 2012 as part of our Bath & Spa Style issue.