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Thermal Baths in Vals, Peter Zumthor

By:   •  October 18, 2014  •  Essay  •  672 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,604 Views

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The Therme Vals is a hotel/spa built over the thermal springs in the Graubünden Canton in Switzerland. Designed by Peter Zumthor in 1966, the Therme Vals is built directly into the hillside creating a cave-like experience. The site compliments the natural surroundings by incorporating the mountain, stone and water. The main inspiration for the design was using locally extracted stone from the mountain. The stone is assembled into slabs and then layered together to create the main structure. "Mountain, stone, water – building in the stone, building with the stone, into the mountain, building out of the mountain, being inside the mountain – how can the implications and the sensuality of the association of these words be interpreted, architecturally?" Peter Zumthor

The spa area is the centralized building surrounded by five hotels shown in the plan. From an overhead view, the building is essentially hidden as the building sinks into the slope of the hillside. The roof is covered with grass making it blend in to the landscape yet being revealed by the geometrical pattern. To access the baths, one takes a curving tunnel walkway from the hotel through the mountain, which acts as a transition from the world outside into a relaxation area. The high walls around the outer pool make it look as if it was carved out of the hill.

The only façade of the site faces the mountain and is broken up by wide openings, windows and promenades. Looking at the façade you can see the elements of the building design, which is made up of 15 different units which all contain an over hanging roof section. Massing is used in the organization of these units to make the structure a whole. None of the roof sections touch, creating permeable eight-centimeter gaps in the roof, which are covered by glass joints. All 15 units contain a separate area that is distinguished by certain aspects such as heat, which is shown through red lighting and the water at a warm temperature.

The plan is organized around a rectangular outdoor pool and a square indoor pool. The outdoor pool acts as a public space while the indoor pool surrounded by slabs of stone creates a more private space. Circulation through the site is shown by the free space throughout the building created by the overhanging roof sections. As you move from one pool to the next, you pass through an open space to a more closed off area that is established through shadows and light.

At five meters high, the walls of the 15 units create a sense of scale. These walls are formed by three slabs of stone, varying in thickness, layered upon each other. In this plan view, you can see the solid/void


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