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Last September, one of our architecture icons was recognized by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) as the recipient of the 2013 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. He is not British but lives and works in Europe, more exactly in Switzerland – Peter Zumthor, the 2009 Pritzker Laureate.
Today we will focus in one of our favorite projects from the man that says : “I work a little bit like a sculptor. When I start, my first idea for a building is with the material. I believe architecture is about that. It’s not about paper, it’s not about forms. It’s about space and material.” – The Therme Vals.
In 1996 opened the unique spa/baths -Therme Vals – designed by Zumthor. Located in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland, this work combines a complete sensory experience.
The stone became the driving inspiration for the design, and is used with great dignity and respect. The building was built layer upon layer of quartzite slabs where the idea was to create a form of cave. The bath rooms lay below a grass roof structure half buried into the hillside to integrate the building in the natural surroundings.
“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
In the Therme Vals we can rediscovered the ancient benefits of bathing and we can have a highly sensuous experience through the combinations of light and shade, open and enclosed spaces and linear elements.
“The meander, as we call it, is a designed negative space between the blocks, a space that connects everything as it flows throughout the entire building, creating a peacefully pulsating rhythm. Moving around this space means making discoveries. You are walking as if in the woods. Everyone there is looking for a path of their own.” Peter Zumthor
This is a fascinating piece of architecture where you can feel the mystic qualities of the stone within the mountain, a feeling of warm stones and naked skin, the ancient ritual of bathing.