The Therme Vals / Peter Zumthor


Built over the only thermal springs in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland, The Therme Vals is a and spa in one which combines a complete sensory experience designed by .


Peter Zumthor designed the spa/baths which opened in 1996 to pre date the existing hotel complex. The idea was to create a form of cave or quarry like structure. Working with the natural surroundings the bath rooms lay below a grass roof structure half buried into the hillside. The Therme Vals is built from layer upon layer of locally quarried Valser Quarzite slabs. This stone became the driving inspiration for the design, and is used with great dignity and respect.


“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


This space was designed for visitors to luxuriate and rediscover the ancient benefits of bathing. The combinations of light and shade, open and enclosed spaces and linear elements make for a highly sensuous and restorative experience. The underlying informal layout of the internal space is a carefully modelled path of circulation which leads bathers to certain predetermined points but lets them explore other areas for themselves. The perspective is always controlled. It either ensures or denies a view.


“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

outdoor pool

The fascination for the mystic qualities of a world of stone within the mountain, for darkness and light, for light reflections on the water or in the steam saturated air, pleasure in the unique acoustics of the bubbling water in a world of stone, a feeling of warm stones and naked skin, the ritual of bathing – these notions guided the architect. Their intention to work with these elements, to implement them consciously and to lend them to a special form was there from the outset. The stone rooms were designed not to compete with the body, but to flatter the human form (young or old) and give it space…room in which to be.

Architects: Peter Zumthor, with Marc Loeliger, Thomas Durisch and Rainer Weitschies
Location: Graubunden Canton, Switzerland
Project completed: 1996

Cite: "The Therme Vals / Peter Zumthor" 11 Feb 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 Sep 2014. <>


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      Hey, Im doing a project on this structure and Im trying to find some sort of site plan or areal photograph of the site, any help?

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      where can i find it (for free download)?
      would you kindly introduce some sites for downloading architecture DVDs (or any other video formats)? i really need them! i teach english to architecture students, they prefer movies as basic material.

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        youtube this “Architecture! Peter Zumthor – The Thermae of Stone”. it is in three parts but totally worth it! actually am an architecture student and my profeesor gave us this to watch as a material.

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    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    John, I think Zumthor would say that architecture is only relevant when it is timeless. I agree somewhat. In the sense of fashion, we have moved on – but in the sense of architectural and spatial experience (the true purpose of architecture), this is one of the true masterpieces. I don’t care whether Therme Vals is posted every ten years for the next two centuries, it’ll still be good architecture.

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    Gomendiorik onena, bainujantzia hartu, eta bertara joatea…


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    Awesome building. Don’t just look at the photos as the experience is much better in reality. Also the hotel has some very nice food!!!

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    “keep posting the classics”
    It´s no even 15 years old for God’s sake! and many if not all ideas behind it are very contemporary- don´t mix architecture and fashion! please…

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    I quite agree on the comments about Therme Vals. It is a timeless piece of Architecture. Alejandro you cite that it is not even 15 years old, yet it has the appearance of being there for longer. This is a combination of the choice of materials and the solid robust fastidious construction.

    I agree with many comments that this building can be revisited in comments. Who cares if it is old news to some. Zumthor is finally getting some attention for his work. This week since his Pritzker win the AJ site has been dominated by Zumthor articles when normally the journalist of this magazine would be neeling at the feet of Zaha, Cook, and Foster.

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    Have experienced this for myself – one of the most relaxing and peaceful spaces i’ve ever been to.

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    Definitely a masterpiece…I think the lesson here is that contemporary architecture needs to connect with the eternal lessons…experience, material, vision…how can one parametrically model the soul?

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    Architecture isn’t fashion, but nor is it ‘timeless.’ It has a context, a set of contraints and an intellectual grounding, those things are all based in a certain time. It isn’t, and shouldnt be, fashion, the scale is entirely different, the amount of intelligence that goes into the design of a skirt someone wears for 5 months is not comparable to the life span of a 50 year building.

    However, all architecture is rooted in a time frame, a context, a background. To see a work as ‘timeless’ is naive, overly simplistic and plain old dangerous.

    Zumthor, as great as he is [and he is great] is no more timeless than Gropius Mies or Aalto. Muchless, Gwathmey, Meier and Eisenman.

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      i apologize…’timeless’ is the wrong word-’enduring’ might be a better choice…i wasn’t referring to it as beyond its’ context, both physical and temporal…i guess i was responding to its’ success as a response to the very real physicality of it…and i think that is what everybody loves about it-it is not about image-making, formal excitement-it is about being a warm human body in it…it’s crazy, but that sense is not discussed a lot from what i hear in architectural circles these days- a human body is just a data point in a MRVDV study…oh, and i love that you mentioned aalto…but i do not have the same love for gwathmey, meier and eisenman…too cold, trendy and intellectual for me-like the thom mayne of the 60′s and 70′s…

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    Modernity in that sense is seen to have a cyclical nature. For modernity has shown to have multiple meanings rather than just one. Design strives to reinterpret and to discover. Peter Zumthor obviously takes part in this with his lack of ornamentation, play of light in a chiaroscuro manner, and his reflections of Corbusian ideals.

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