Architecture's Modern Marvels - #3

12:46 PM

The building that hit #3 on Vanity Fair's Modern Marvels list is perhaps my all-time favorite building. It is at least in contention for the top spot. I guess the critics are right when they call Peter Zumthor the architects' architect.



In architecture school, there is always a lot of discussion about the experience of the space. About entry, passage... about the journey.
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The Therme Bath Vals is a spa set up in the mountains of Switzerland, and if any building is about the journey... then it is this one. I drove with friends from Zurich up to Chur and then on to Vals. For someone who hadn't really spent much time in the mountains, the drive was unbelievable. The scenery was so picturesque and quaint - at one time we were stopped by a passing farmer and his herd of cattle!
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By the time we got to Vals, I was soooo ready to be at the spa. The excitement had really been building. As someone who loves minimalist design, but also loves tactile, crafted designs, Zumthor has always been one of my favorite architects.
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Believe me, the spa did not disappoint. The exterior structure is gorgeous, constructed of locally quarried stone in long linear patterns. The massive forms sink into the mountainside, with the green roof furthering the feeling that you are being enveloped by your surroundings.
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Once inside, we donned our bathing suits and made our way into the pools. Talk about the progression of space... I can still remember the different experiences in each pool; the hot water right next to the unbearable cold, the rose petal water, the tiny pool with the highest ceiling, the pass-through from inside to out. We swam and swam until we were so shriveled we couldn't possibly stay any longer.
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Buildings are meant to be experienced, and the Therme Bath Vals was one of the unforgettable experiences of my life. How can you not love this building and this architect?
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