Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Thermal Baths - Peter Zumthor

Earlier in the semester I joked about going to the2009 Pritzker winner, Peter Zumthor’s Thermal Baths, a spa located in a small village in the middle of Switzerland called Vals, with no real intention of making the trek.  However, during our individual travels this past semester [March 2009], with only a vague understanding of the project that was literally built in and from the Swiss Alps, I was lucky enough to make the adventure to Vals, Switzerland to share an experience of a lifetime with my new fiancĂ© [engaged 2 days prior in Cinque Terre]. 

We stayed three nights while two of my colleagues and one’s girlfriend joined us for an evening in Vals also.  We stayed in one of the newly renovated Zumthor rooms where he carried his edge detail from the therme into the shower creating a reveal for water to drain into.  This relates to the same edge detail we saw earlier in the semester at the Kunsthaus Bregenz; Zumthors art museum in Bregen, Austria.  

At the Therme, Zumthor works primarily in volumes and voids, cutting the material, that being of the local quartzite, away to create a cave like experience; an experience where you were forced to wander and discover the space and the architecture.  Contained within these volumes were separate baths of all different experiences.  These included the fire bath [42®C], ice bath [14®C], Flower Bath [33®C], and the Sound Bath [35®C].  These volumes are highlighted by the ‘expansion joint’ which allows a slit of light into the spa.  The general consensus was that the Sound Bath was the largest, but you must experience these spaces for yourself and make your own decision.

Zumthor creates an atmosphere you can only begin to understand by physically and emotionally experiencing the space.  These spaces are always changing, whether it is by the ever changing floors due to the wet footprints charting the traffic through the space or the angry Swiss men staring at you as you enter one of the caves with only their eyes above the water as though they were alligators ready to strike; these spaces are timeless. 

Following are a few sketches of a colleague of mine and my experiences in the space…

The thermes website:

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