Tamina Thermal Baths by Smolenicky & Partner


Smolenicky & Partner Architektur of Zurich have completed thermal baths featuring oval apertures between tall wooden columns at Bad Ragaz, Switzerland.

Above photo is by Walter Mair

Called Tamina Thermal Baths, the project incorporates an indoor pool, sauna, shops and restaurant.

Above photo is by Walter Mair

The 20 metre-high structure includes 115 columns.

Above photo is by Walter Mair

The wooden building is painted white inside and out.

Photographs are by Roland Bernath except where stated otherwise.

Here are some more details from Smolenicky & Partner Architecture:


Thermal baths with indoor bathing pool, large sauna area, shops and restaurant.

Above photo is by Walter Mair


The project for the Tamina thermal baths is the result of a two-stage competition from 2003. The aim of the first phase of the process was to coordinate the large pending architectural interventions in terms of town planning.

Where should the new five-star hotel be located, where should the extension of the medical centre be set, and how should the new public thermal baths be accessed from the site? The plan was to invest and coordinate a total of SFr. 160 million in new constructions and structural alterations.

The second part of the competition involved designing the project’s two major new constructions – the hotel and the thermal baths. The architectural office Smolenicky & Partner won the project for the Tamina thermal baths, Hilmer & Sattler and Albrecht Architects the project for the new hotel.


The town-planning character of the resort is dominated by large representative buildings set in an expansive park landscape. To this extent the resort clearly distinguishes itself from the identity of the village of Bad Ragaz. During the belle époque this principle of building monumental hotels in close vicinity to a village was successfully applied to a number of locations in the Swiss Alps. The most important examples are Interlaken, St. Moritz and Gstaad. In Bad Ragaz two cul-de-sacs fork off from the main road that runs through the golf course connecting Bad Ragaz and Maienfeld. In the new project the thermal baths were deliberately located on the cul-de-sac accessing the resort’s public facilities, such as the new conference centre in the renovated spa spring hall, the casino and the golf club house. The second cul-de-sac running along the park has been kept free to provide access to the three grand hotels, and emits a more private and calmer atmosphere.


Instead of being freestanding, the form of the building volume emerges from the enclosing of exterior spaces. In the area of the open-air baths, for instance, the volume of the building is stepped back and opens out the sunbathing lawn to the wooded slopes of the mountain ridge. The view extends past the existing buildings, screened by newly planted groups of trees. The guests experience a park landscape that melts into woods and mountain slopes.

The predominant landscaped, park-like atmosphere remains intact despite the compact manner of building. Thus the resort remains characterized by its park. The main entrance to the thermal baths, the spa spring hall, is set on the visual axis of the cul-de-sac in order, from the main road, to mark its presence in the depth of the site as a public facility.


The Tamina thermal baths is explicitly conceived as a part of the grand-hotel culture. The cultural and aesthetic identity of the project seeks an affinity to both Swiss tradition and the grand hotels of the Baltic coast, such as Heiligendamm.

For this reason the building volume has a monumental character, in order to stand out as an institution equal to the other buildings in the resort. Simultaneously the thermal baths are intended to relativize the almost “urban” stonework character of the spa spring hall. This explains the snow-white woodwork of the thermal baths, lending it the pavilion-like character of the architecture of a historical holiday resort.

This strategy of using an explicit resort architecture is underscored in the building’s formally fanciful oval windows. Seen from the inside, the windows have the effect of over-dimensional picture frames.

Oval picture frames were widespread in the Victorian era for landscape scenes, whereby the intention in the current project is to give specific expression to the view over the relatively neutral landscape by means of the gesture of the frame.


Metaphorically the creation of the interior spaces of the project has an analogy in cutting clearings in the pattern of a forest by felling individual trees. This is the reverse of the common design process.

The exterior spaces are similarly created by “felling” supports on the periphery of the building volume. Structurally the building can be more or less seen as a forest, created out of columns instead of trees – a total of 115 supports using the timber of 2,200 fir-trees (this amount of wood is regenerated in Switzerland in two-and-a-half hours).


Materially the project possesses the same appearance internally and externally.

The snow-white timber battens are carried over internally as wall surfacing.

In this sense there is no actual interior architecture to the building, but instead only a whole architecture of the building.

The timber structure of the building is not merely determined by the criteria of the span of the supports.

Click for larger image

Instead of a focus on the engineering of the function of the supports and the reinforcement of a construction, the structure concentrates far more on spatial phenomena, creating a beauty and a ceremonial atmosphere. Bathing is celebrated as a cultivated activity.

Click for larger image

Project address:
Tamina Therme, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz AG, CH-7310 Bad Ragaz, www.resortragaz.ch

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz AG, Pfäferserstrasse 8, CH-7310, Bad Ragaz
(main investor Thomas Schmidheiny)

Overall site, key figures (new constructions + alterations):
overall site - 90,000 m2
total volume of site investment - SFr.160 million

Click for larger image

Tamina thermal baths, key figures:
building dimensions - length 95m, width 75m, height 20m
site area - 6,789m2
construction area - 3,535 m2
storey areas - 10,306 m2
construction volume acc. SIA 416 - 41,656 m3
investment costs - SFr. 41 million, of which SFr. 10 million in timberwork
construction costs (building cost classification 2/m3) - SFr. 865/m3
timber use - 2,000 m3, corresponding to 2,200 fir-trees (regenerated in 2 ½ hours in Switzerland)
no. of interior and exterior supports - 115
no. of wall elements - 43
no. of acoustic elements - 196

Click for larger image

Smolenicky & Partner Architecture, Zurich
Architect: Joseph Smolenicky
Project manager: Philipp Röthlisberger
Contributors: Simon Krähenbühl, Petr Michalek, Juan Carlos Smolenicky Muñoz

Timberwork: Blumer-Lehmann AG, Gossau SG
Heating, cooling, plumbing and sanitary installation: Kannewischer Engineering Office AG, Zug
General contractor: HRS Real Estate AG, Frauenfeld

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
Town and site planning
New construction of Tamina thermal baths

Posted on Monday March 22nd 2010 at 12:45 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Fizz

    Well it has been designed for the location known as Bad Ragaz, so I suppose it has to be by default, ‘bad’. Anyway you wooden believe it….

  • Nawaf

    Unwelcoming design & too industrial for a place supposed to make you relax.

  • L.W.

    @ tim- believe you were trying to say XIX, not IXX, right….?
    Nineteenth century? Take care not to use numerals in your CV.

  • just odd! A crossing between a 60th Boudoir and Space Odysee. But in a couple of years… they might tear it down again – hopefully!!

  • the typology of this spa seems to be a contradiction to what it is meant to do. I find it just hard to believe this is the winning entry.

    maybe mac mansions are indeed the wave of the future.. .oh dear

  • WOW! What incredible snobs most of you are. This project is amazing and just because it’s not a box piled on top of another box or a serpantine, twisted metal structure that blends with none of it’s surroundings, it must be a throwback or some American suburb McMansion.

    You should all get your heads out of your rectums and appreciate beauty not for who’s created it but for the beauty in itself.


    WAW…WAW…WAW the first time i see a perfect mixture between classics and modern processes useing modern marerials…..it realy amazing…thank you :D

  • jing

    wow!so luxurious!

  • xyz

    Dear Dezeen, If you want your contemporary design blog to become a tool of the the Princes Foundation.org, or the Institute of Classical Architecture, keep publishing this sort of dilated bling/mush. This is a debate you shouldn’t be dallying with……please! Ugh.

  • thinq

    this actually comes across as more modern than many projects

  • wing

    I love it at first sight….that could be a perfect place for a wedding or something.it’s dramatic and full of power.

  • papi91

    super sexy ! !
    modern baroque could say ..

  • gioh

    geez, so many hateful comments…people get so worked up online…i think this is beautiful geometry in impressive scale…cant go unnoticed…i wonder why i havent seen this building anywhere before…would like to experience this and then peter zumthor's spa in vals…i have the feeling the spa in vals is way overrated…

  • kabouter

    I find this to be an intriguing result, which has a lot of aesthetic value. Definitely not something that I had already seen or that I am used to. But this makes it more special.

    What it reminds me of is the architecture of some unknown Star Trek civilization. Romulan, perhaps. Yeah, Romulan architecture!

  • usernimi

    “100% formalism… Architectural dead-end… Lord of the Rings… Spa for Beverly Hills millionaires… Hitler’s kind of architecture…”

    Hitler’s kind of architecture? Funny how anything reminiscent of past architectural styles elicits shrieks of dismay in those ideologically devoted to modernism.

    Okay, so there are rows of symmetrical windows. It doesn’t mean a fascist military takeover is under way. Sheesh!

  • EJ

    This is glorious.

  • K

    Love this, old features made contemporary.