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4/13/14

VALS | a surreal thermal bath by peter zumthor | february '14

Visiting the thermal bath in the small and outlandish village Vals created by one of my personal favorite architects, Peter Zumthor, was a surreal and phenomenal experience. 
The trip eliminates your sense for space and time. Reveling in the magical atmosphere of both the tiny village up high in the Alps and the superb architectural masterpiece that is the thermal bath itself, you get a feeling of ultimate serenity and you get lost somewhere between the monolithic stone building and the mountains surrounding you. 
I cam with high expectations. Probably with the highest expectations that one could have for a day trip that takes you up a small, winding alpine-road as well as for an architectural creation by someone that you consider a legend in architecture. Especially with those high hopes there was vast grounds for being let down – if you expect so much from something that you have been wanting to experience for a long time, chances are that what you get will not entirely be all that you wanted it to be. 
In this case however, I could not have been happier and the thermal bath in Vals exceeded my expectations. 

Something I had underestimated was the drive up to the village of Vals where the thermal bath is located. The day started with a cloudy, foggy, and low-hanging gray sky. The drive from Zurich takes about two hours and has you holding your breath more than once (especially if you ain't used to the alpine roads and mountain-ridges like myself). With the dramatic sky and weather, the drive to Vals was phenomenal all on it's own. With every curve once you pass Chur, the scenery gets more surreal, secluded, and unique. Everything was covered in snow and was peacefully displayed within the massive mountains of the Alps – surely something that one will remember forever.

Once you have made it to Vals, you step out of your car (or whichever way of transportation you arrived with) and feel kind of lost. You can't see the thermal bath from the man road and are left searching for the little signs that point you in the right direction. Upon ascending the steps towards the adjacent hotel, me and my dear travel companions were slightly shocked and perplex (not positively). If you are not arriving with a preconceived picture and sense of architecture of the bath itself in your head, you probably would never guess that a place like it even exists here. The main hotel is the most hideous building one could think of in such a place an in desperate need of a make-over. Seriously, the Hotel does not do the thermal bath any justice. Fortunately, once you have found your way inside the Zumthor magic, everything around it fades out and is barely left in you memory afterwards. What you are left with is the finest, most thought-through and astonishing architecture there is, a calming, relaxing, and reviving wellness experience, and breathtaking views of the alps and tiny indigenous mountain huts sprawled along the ridges. 

I could seriously not be more in awe of this building and the experience inside. I could talk on and on about it and hope to share some of my love for it now in my images. One thing I was a bit sad about (but can completely understand and actually appreciate as a guest) was that I was not allowed to take any pictures inside the thermal bath. This is understandable so that I do not disturb the guests. Thinking of the exquiste photos I could have taken though thanks to the magnificent lighting, material, and architectural space I wish I had the space for myself for an entire day to experience everything in solitude and capture everything with my camera. How wonderful that would be...A girl can dream. 

So here are images mainly of the drive up to Vals and some exterior shots of the thermal baths. Please make sure to google Thermal Bath Vals, Peter Zumthor and check out some online images. Especially the ones by Hélène Binet do the architecture justice. 





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Thermal Bath Vals by Peter Zumthor | www.therme-vals.ch | a surely great trip and memorable visit | be sure to reserve, as entrance for people not also staying at the adjacent hotel is limited | check for their opening hours and months that they are closed for the season (around april-august I believe) | take on the drive from Zurich up to Vals, it is fascinating | plan an entire day if you can, or at least the good part of the day | the thermal bath is great for relaxation and reviving yourself. There are areas for rest and sleep besides the various baths and water-related spaces, so a day is easy to spend inside the thermal baths. 

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