Going on with our series of entries about buildings that we have visited and have made an impression on us, we move forward from Norway to Switzerland, to the small village of Vals. There is where the 2009 Pritzker award winner Peter Zumthor, architect Peter Zumthor, projected and built an authentic jewel of architecture, Vals Hot Springs.
The building was built repurposing an old hotel from the sixties with the aim to impulse tourism in the area. The first intention of the arquitect was to build the hot springs within the mountains, but the big complications that would have arised made him change his ideas, if he couldn’t’ have the building inside the mountains he would make the building to be a part of the mountains.
This is why the project, set in a steep slope of the mountain blends with its surroundings. Other than concrete he also used a lot of quartzite from a nearby quarry.
Almost 60.000 pieces of quartzite were used in the building, not just for their aesthetic value but also in the building’s structure.
The sobriety and simplicity that characterize this building that plays with delightful skill with full and empty volumes. It generates spaces to which the reflected lights, the sound of water and the strength of the stone confer an almost spiritual atmosphere.
After gaining access to the complex from a small lateral entry, a long hallway takes you to the main space of the hot springs. Here an overwhelming feeling of calmness invades the visitors, that feel the spaces as if they were sculpted in rock.
Finally we arrive to a stunning outdoor pool, full of water at 36º that comes from the mountain, that connects the interior and exterior of the hot springs. It portraits the snowy mountain tops and offers one of the most breath-taking experiences I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
For all of this it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Vals Hot Springs are considered as a masterpiece of this master architect. A building that moves you, brings peace and quietude and I believe that shares aspects of religious architecture.
Paraphrasing Peter Zumthor himself: “Mountain, stone, water. Build on stone, build with stone, inside the mountain, with the mountain, being inside the mountain. How can we interpret architectonically the implications and sensuality associated to these words? The whole concept has been designed answering these questions and this is how it has been taking form step to step.”.