Celebrated Architects Team Up on a Landmark Hotel in the Swiss Alps
Nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps, a couple of hours south of Zürich, the village of Vals gained notoriety in the 19th century, thanks to mineral-infused hot springs that began attracting a growing number of visitors. Its profile was boosted again in the late 1960s, when a modern spa hotel complex was built to replace the antiquated bathhouses. But it wasn’t until the facility was redesigned and expanded by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor nearly 30 years later that it gained the global recognition it enjoys today.
Zumthor’s design for the minimalist sybarite’s paradise is lined with 60,000 slabs of gray quartzite quarried nearby, creating a serene, almost cavelike atmosphere. Just two years after its completion, Therme Vals was designated a national monument, and when Zumthor went on to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2009, the project was cited as his masterpiece.
As though one celebrated architect in the sleepy village of 1,000 inhabitants wasn’t enough, in 2012 the property changed hands, and the new owner enlisted Tadao Ando, Thom Mayne, and Kengo Kuma along with Zumthor to reimagine a slate of guest rooms in a 1960s-era lodge next to Therme Vals. Reopened last year as the House of Architects at 7132 Hotel, the 71-room gem has only added to the town’s allure as a place to enjoy the waters in architecturally spectacular spaces. An adjacent building, the 7132 Hotel, is currently undergoing renovations and will reopen in July.
Mayne, who heads the New York–based firm Morphosis, devised a new entrance pavilion to the resort and updated 20 rooms, each centered around a single material. For ten earth-inspired accommodations, he drew upon Zumthor’s use of local stone, wrapping each 215-square-foot chamber in shadowy quartz—save for the shower area, which he designed as a striking cocoon of hot-bent glass. The concept for the other ten rooms revolves around locally harvested oak, with sleek blonde panels covering every inch of the walls and floor.
Both Kuma and Ando—who revamped 23 and 18 rooms, respectively—drew from their Japanese roots. Ando borrowed the clean-lined aesthetic of traditional teahouses, with minimal furnishings, warm wood planks, and cream-colored walls. Kuma’s spaces, meanwhile, are a nod to Japanese carpentry, with overlapping oak panels curling from the walls to the ceiling, framing the stunning views of surrounding peaks. For his part, Zumthor contributed a moody collection of 10 rooms, sheathing walls in iridescent stucco lustro based on an Italian Renaissance technique and importing hand-painted Habutai silk curtains from Asia.
The site is part of a larger development project that includes a planned hotel tower inspired by Alberto Giacometti’s poetic Femme de Venise sculpture and designed by Morphosis. The minimalist, 1,250-foot-high structure—which has been a source of controversy—would be the tallest building in Europe, its glass skin reflecting the surrounding Alpine landscape.