This may well be one of the most beautiful places you will ever swim in.
Located in the Swiss town of Vals, this extraordinary reworking of an existing thermal bath has put the town, and the architect Peter Zumthor, on the map.
Entering via the basement level of the adjoining hotel you walk past walls dripping with water into highly polished dressing rooms before entering into the procession of steps and walkways leading to the various pools and associated spaces.
Smooth, blue-grey layered stone walls enclose the multiple ‘rooms’ – some filled with water, some dark with headphones to listen to and others with lounges to relax and peer out of the small square windows.
There are steps down into each bathing space, all with a slightly different water temperature. One space is the warmest, and the only room with reddish walls. In another you have to swim under a wall below the water line to experience the only space with rough walls. Then there is the pool you swim into and duck under the glazed wall to reach the outside pool.
On the lower level are massage rooms, mud baths and lounges for quiet relaxation.
The entire building is exquisitely detailed and built – concrete structure and ceilings (with glazed gaps to let in the light), stone slab floors, stacked stone walls, metal railings and brass fittings right down to the idea of the timing post – in a place where you don’t want to think about the time it is still possible to find out if you go up close to the post and look down to see a beautifully inserted swiss timepiece.
As you can see, I was there in the winter when the views of snowy landscapes and mist rising from the warm water added another layer to this incredible experience.
Place: Therme Vals Hotel
Architect: Peter Zumthor Pritzker Prize 2009
Photographer: Stephen Varady (scans from slides)
Map: Therme Vals Map
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