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Therme Vals: A tribute to the essential

“The strength of a good project lies in us and in our ability to perceive the world with feeling and reason. A good architectural design is sensorial. A good architectural design is rational”.

Peter Zumthor

Thermal baths there are many, but none of the elegance and sophistication of the Therme Vals in Switzerland where the benefits of water for the mind and body is combined with the revelation of art for the spirit.

Thanks to its unique architecture the building was declared a monument when completed. Refined people all over the world happily get lost on the winding mountain roads to reach what, according to the most demanding ones, it is the most amazing and beautiful thalassotherapy resort. It is not easy to get there but part of its beauty also lies in this difficulty. The spa complex is situated on the slopes of a Swiss valley near Lugano. Views, architecture, relaxation and health are the combination.

Seen from the outside, it looks like a huge perforated stone. The surprise however, is inside. The interior with the water creates a warm atmosphere of textures and waters in different colours changing with the temperatures, generating a theatre of the senses in an almost unreal atmosphere. The religious silence is part of the show as well as the rest.

Stone wrapped with perfect lights, that’s the green Therme Vals. Constructed of 60,000 quartz pieces from the local mountains, the austere and sensual building houses thermal waters with temperatures from 14ºC to 30ºC filled with healing minerals.

It was built in 1996 by the architect Peter Zumthor. Going there means getting to know an essential, original and dazzling architecture. The interior emulates the interior of the earth with spaces lit from the cracks above creating an almost spiritual light. The different pools are designed in a labyrinth. Caves in straight angles where the continuous space grows through the basic structure of the rooms.

The baths follow one and other as dark intimate landscapes beside the mountain where you enter, leading to larger and larger rooms towards the main facade where the daylight comes in. Suddenly, you find yourself outdoors in the outside space of the building. The magnificent landscape of the valley, the moon above- a night swim is highly recommended- creating an unforgettable experience.

Peter Zhumtor, Pritzker-winning architect in 2009, is admired for his strong and clean architecture that expresses the utmost respect for the usefulness of the site. Zhumtor emphasizes the specific use of the building as a starting point and end. The materials are indigenous and he experiments with them like a craftsman. In the construction he has used materials like pebbles and washed glass, materials for an architecture that seeks to remain.

In this gathering place the water is reflected on the walls, the colours announce the temperature and the architecture does not invade but is reflected in its form to acquire meaning. The theatre of the senses is served.

“My buildings try to answer questions that arise out of simple facts, and I try to respond as accurately and critically as possible “.

Baths with aromas, sounds, cold and hot baths with steam follows one another with earthy colours: cinnabar, oxides, malachite and saffron into an abstraction of palettes contained by perfect vertical walls.

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