Peter Zumthor 1993-1996, redeveloped 2016 by Morphosis, Kengo Kuma and Tadao Ando
Built over the only thermal springs in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland, the hotel and spa in one which combines a complete sensory experience
Recommended by: Tony Chapman, former RIBA Head of Awards and C20 member.
“If you want to discover how far up-market architectural tourism has gone in recent years, try the newly rebuilt 7132 Hotel (named for its postcode) in Vals, Switzerland. I last went there in 2014 when I was interviewing Peter Zumthor and stayed in the original decent but low-key, white, bow-fronted hotel from 1970, around which he built his remarkable spa in the 1990s. These days, although that façade survives, Thom Mayne’s firm Morphosis have added a blobby extension, so you might well feel like you’re checking into a place designed by Zaha Hadid on a bad hair day.
“Inside, I suspect little remains of the simple rooms whose quiet simplicity I greatly enjoyed. But I know the exquisite views over the valley of Vals will be unchanged. And that Zumthor’s architecture, which is all about the creation of atmosphere, will continue to take your breath away. Literally. And with interiors designed by Thom Mayne, Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma and Zumthor himself, maybe some of the rooms will too.
“But hey, you’re not here for the five stars anyway, you’re here for the sublime spa that seems to have been quarried out of the Swiss Alps. And to spend time in its black waters and spaces, which experience for me counts amongst the most magical of my life.
“To book it’s best to go to that bible of travelling design enthusiasts, tablethotels.com and pay accordingly – between £500 and £2,800 a night. Their site does have a handy guide to who designed what:
“‘Ando is known for his work in concrete, but here he pays tribute to Japan’s traditional teahouses, working in delicately wrought wood. Kuma, too, is inspired by Japanese carpentry in his oak-clad bedrooms, and Thom Mayne splits his effort between finely crafted wooden cocoons and stone rooms in ornately figured quartzite. And Zumthor’s stucco rooms are perhaps the most dramatic, dark and richly textured, making ultra-modern use of a centuries-old Italian technique.’”
“If you want to save a few Swiss Francs, try to book the room that simulates the spa experience with its walls of similar dark grey stone. Further savings are to be had if you go for the annexe 7132 Glenner, where a barn-like room will set you back a mere £180.”
Known for his sensuous materiality and attention to place, 2009 Pritzker Laureate Peter Zumthor (born April 26, 1943) is one the most revered architects of the 21st century.