Villa Vals / SeARCH & CMA


Architects: SeARCH & CMA
Location: Vals, Switzerland
Design: Bjarne Mastenbroek & Christian Müller
Interior design cardboard bedroom: Studio JVM, Jeroen van Mechelen
Interior design excluding cardboard bedroom: Bjarne Mastenbroek
Interior advises: Christian Müller, Monica Ketting & Thomas Eyck
Contractor main structure: Kurt Schnyder Bauunternehmung, Vals, CH
Structural engineering: Alex Kilchmann, Schluein, CH
Glass façade engineering and construction: Walch GmbH, Ludesch, AT
Carpenter, interior finishing: A. Gartmann AG, Vals, CH
Cardboard interior: Nedcam shaping technology, Apeldoorn, NL
Cupboards, step chest: van hier tot Tokio’, Japanese Antiques
Electrical installations: Comet GmbH, Vals, CH
Plumbing & Water installations: Oscar Caduff, Vals, CH
Mechanical Ventilation & heating regeneration: Lippuner EMT AG, Grabs, CH
Avalanche protection: Geobrugg AG, Romanshorn, CH
Fire places and stoves: Maurus Cathomas, Ilanz, CH
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Iwan Baan

@ Iwan Baan @ Iwan Baan @ Iwan Baan @ Iwan Baan

Shouldn’t it be possible to conceal a house in an Alpine slope while still exploiting the wonderful views and allowing light to enter the building?

Surprised that it was permissible to construct a pair of dwellings so close to the world famous thermal baths of Vals, the client seized the opportunity to develop the site, without disturbing the bath’s expansive views. The introduction of a central patio into the steep incline creates a large façade with considerable potential for window openings. The viewing angle from the building is slightly inclined, giving an even more dramatic view of the strikingly beautiful mountains on the opposite side of the narrow valley.

@ Iwan Baan
@ Iwan Baan

The Local Authority’s well intentioned caution, that unusual modern proposals were generally not favoured, proved unfounded. The planners were pleased that the proposal did not appear ‘residential’ or impose on the adjacent baths building. The scheme was not perceived as a typical structure but rather an example of pragmatic unobtrusive development in a sensitive location. The placing of the entrance via an old Graubünder barn and an underground tunnel further convinced them that the concept, while slightly absurd, could still be permitted.

@ Iwan Baan
@ Iwan Baan

Switzerland’s planning laws dictate that it is only possible to grant a definitive planning permission after a timber 
model of the building’s volume has first been constructed on site. This can then be accurately appraised by the local community and objected to if considered unsuitable. For this proposal, logic prevailed and this part of the process was deemed to be unnecessary.

Cite: "Villa Vals / SeARCH & CMA" 09 Dec 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    I expected a different surrounding, its position is dissapointing to me. Even more shocked by the Vals Therme in the Background, always thought it is surounded by landscape, not by houses.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      It is not as crowded as it seems from the image. Vals is fairly rural and one still gets a wonderful sensation from the mountains.

      I only hope the villa has a good heating system because it gets very cold up there.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        one of the main benefit of the building is that they don’t need a powerful heating system. all the sides are protected by the ground exept for one facade, which is (i guess) exposed to south.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      I have been in the Vals Therme and must admit, being inside, you don’t see any of these Houses, but the wonderful alpes and few old cottages..

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I really respect the out of the box thinking of this project.

    One point of criticism: Was it really the only way the problem was able to be solved regarding the fence which protects people from falling in from above? It looks rather clumsy. Maybe the wall of the house itself could have continued a bit more vertically to protect. The fence to me sort of represents the fact this concept is lacking real world practicality.

    I too was surprised with the congested surroundings the thermal baths of Zumthor are located in. The steep inclinations of the landscape, which are not obvious on the aerial photos, probable help a lot though.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      That fence is the standard fence used on Swiss ski hills for protecting ski traffic from cliff drops etc. The hill behind the baths can be skied from Vals resort so I am sure it is a must by the resort. They look pretty makeshift but when there is a 2m snowfall base they work really well.

      I agree though, it does remove somewhat from the project styling.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        It’s not a ski protecting fence but an avalance fence.
        Rather ‘handy’ when there’s 2 meters of snow or a big shift from the roadshovel 20-meters uphill. Funny enough it’s not obligatory since you can drop down anywhere in this steep valley

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    brilliant, i love how smart it’s integrated in surrounding space. and the inner space looks cosy and smart too. i give 9/10

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