Morphosis unveils plans for "Minimalist"
skyscraper next to Zumthor's Therme Vals

| 158 comments
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The American architecture studio led by Pritzker Prize-winner Thom Mayne has unveiled its design for a 381-metre-tall mirrored hotel tower in Vals, Switzerland.

Morphosis Architects has released images of a slim, glassy skyscraper that it says will mirror the surrounding landscape of the Swiss Alps.

"As much as possible, the hotel is a minimalist act that re-iterates the site and offers to the viewer a mirrored, refracted perspective of the landscape," said Mayne.

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The 53,000-square-metre building will include 107 guest rooms and suites, as well as spas, a ballroom and a library, restaurants, a cafe, bar, sky bar and a gallery. It will also have a swimming pool and fitness centre.

"The tower's reflective skin and slender profile camouflage with the landscape, abstracting and displacing the valley and sky," said the architects. "The combination of one-room-per-floor and a narrow floor-plate afford exclusive panoramic views of the Alps."

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Morphosis was commissioned to design the hotel following a controversial competition process, which saw the jury distance themselves from the appointment.

Due for completion in 2019, the building will be part of the Vals resort, which already includes a hotel as well as a world-famous spa building by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

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"Morphosis was selected by the client for the strength of their proposal, which uses a Minimalist approach to help the hotel blend with the mountain landscape at the existing resort campus," said a statement from the firm.

"The new hotel and arrival is defined by three forms: a podium linking the building with neighboring structures; a cantilever containing a restaurant, cafe, spa, and bar – public amenities shared with the town; and a tower holding a sky bar, restaurant, and 107 guest rooms with panoramic views."

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The structure is called the 7132 Tower after the client 7132 Ltd, which manages the resort in Vals.

It will be Morphosis Architects' first project in Switzerland. The LA-based firm is known for buildings including the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas and the Hollywood campus of Emerson College.

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A total of eight firms were originally shortlisted for the competition, which was launched last June. The jury led by Sauerbruch Hutton co-founder Louisa Hutton recommended three schemes by Morphosis, American architect Steven Holl and London firm 6a Architects, before 7132 made its final decision.

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But the five jurors later issued a statement through the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects distancing themselves from the appointment, which they claimed took place when "a decision had not yet been made".

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7132 was founded by Vals resident Remo Stoffel, who bought the Swiss resort from the local government in 2012. 7132 now manages the existing hotel as well as Zumthor's Therme Vals spa – considered one of the Swiss architect's most important works.

Built over the only thermal springs in the Graubünden canton, the spa was completed in 1996. It features walls of locally sourced Valser quartzite slabs and a grass roof.

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Japanese architect Tadao Ando is also designing a park for the site, called the Valser Path, which is due for completion in 2017.

  • Tim

    News report: the region of Vals has succumb to heavy bushfires. Cause unknown…

  • grb

    Some points:

    1) “Ick” and “gross” aren’t much in the way of criticism.

    2) Nor is saying the project doesn’t fit the “context”. Context is all-important until it isn’t by reason. The Eiffel Tower didn’t fit the context, as countless hectoring critics noted when it was proposed.

    3) It’s worth noting Mayne made serious design decisions here, worth real consideration. Apparently given a program which called for a tower, his One Room Per Floor scheme reduces the tower footprint to a mere sliver of space – at the cost of greater height.

    4) The reflective-glass-disappearing thing is, of course, archispeak blather. For this to work the tower would have to be executed with a jewel-like finesse. The slightest coarseness in the detailing would be painful to bear.

    5) My greatest concern isn’t that the scheme can’t be pulled off – a reed-thin glass tower set against the muscular grandeur of the mountains might have real iconic power – but for what? In the end it’s only branding for a luxury product. That’s the context which bothers me. The architecture might outstrip its purpose.

    • FurnFixEquip

      This proposal is a disaster and the logistics are a nightmare. It strenuously avoids any seriousness.

      1) How will guests check out of this hotel?

      Seriously, how many elevators serve the one-room-per-floor scheme? How many need to run to serve a mass checkout assuming luxury clients won’t want to wait or stop on every floor? Do the clients arrive by car or transit (access to the village is limited: it is not urban)?

      Does the footprint for the elevators and egress stairs needed defeat the purpose of skinny-tower ideology (there is a difference between a hotel and condo building like the on Shop proposes in NYC: either way they are both gimmicks)?

      2) Who believes the invisible architecture premise? “The slightest coarseness in the detailing would be painful to bear.” – grb.

      Architecture can never be invisible. Clients should distrust designers who pitch such nonsense. Even a finely detailed glass tower will cast shadow and reflect glare. What’s the point of hiring an architect if you want something ‘invisible’ anyhow? I doubt Mayne believe in this rhetoric either, but if he truly does then he should give back his Pritzker.

  • David Northway

    This looks like something out of a science-fiction film from the near future… in a good way.

  • Terry

    Vals does not require any statement-making building. Stop the architect’s ego (or greed)!

  • FLAVIO

    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING.

  • Berni

    Bye bye birds!

  • River

    I think Mayne’s integrity has been compromised; revoke his Pritzker.

  • Afroditi

    By proposing this obnoxious piece of phallic architecture, Mr. Mayne obviously shows an envious resentment against Therme Vals. No, it’s not about the size Thom; I think you got it wrong this time.

    • Peter Hayes

      Nicely put.

      • Jen Allaway

        Phallic architecture indeed. It won’t go through in the end anyway.

        • SteveLeo

          When will people get bored of screaming ‘phallic’ every time a skyscraper is proposed? If that’s what yours looks like, I would be worried.

  • Friedrich

    Great! Looks like an inside joke. Thom Mayne is awesome.

  • Ahmed Saad
  • d.teil

    Shame on you Mr Mayne!

  • d.teil

    All information about this (in German) can be found here: http://www.ferien-vals.ch/79301.html………

    Mr. Stoffel bought the Theme Vals for just 8 million Franken. This is a joke isn’t it? And there was another guy who wanted to buy the Therme (but the Valser people said no!) Peter Zumthor himself!

    And now the entrance fee has already doubled to 80 Franken! Eighty Franken (worth a ticket for the Rolling Stones).

  • David Singh Luque

    I read somewhere that it looked like Saruman´s tower clad in crystal. You can bet it will be full of orcs.

  • Orcks

    A bird’s death trap…

  • Varuo

    Please don’t. I think it would look and feel like a typical place for the wealthy rather than a place with pure atmospheric qualities that Zumthor has intended to arouse. Zumthor’s efforts might be put to waste.

  • JJI

    Morphosis are the kind of firm that puts forks in microwaves and skyscrapers in the Alps.

  • Julia

    I think that we are all forgetting that any
    building, regardless of who designed it or what it looks like, will be heavily scrutinized in this location. It is no easy task to build a hotel next to one of the most elegant, site-sensitive pieces of architecture in the world.

    There were really two options here: design something that responds directly to the Therme Vals or be bold. Anything that responds directly will mostly likely fail because it would never live up to the beauty of Zumthor’s design.

    The point is, people would scrutinize a site-sensitive design as much as a bold design. From an architect’s perspective, (especially an architect like Thom Mayne who is known for his bold moves) why would they want to design something that would inevitably be compared to and undermined by the Therme Vals. Instead he took the opposite approach, an opportunity to not compete with the Zumthor’s design but to contrast it.

    I see it as a landmark in an otherwise overlooked location. This makes it a destination, which I think is great. Yes, it may seem a little unrealistic now, but if this does get built and they can achieve the image of a pillar disappearing into the clouds, reflecting its surroundings and acting as a landmark, then I would say the design is successful and appropriate.

  • Stephen Newman

    Ahh… the old invisible building trick eh?

  • onshay

    Sure, it takes some courage to propose something as wildly inappropriate as this. Architectural courage, though, would be better represented by boycotting competitions such as this one.

    Everyone can take some solace that this will most likely not get built.

  • ACochrane

    This must be some kind of sick joke.

  • McBall

    I love it! It’s anti-context. One is not enough though…

  • Varuo

    What are your thought on Ando designing this project instead? I think Ando’s got a more “neutral” or site-sensitive approach that could possibly be the best way of solving this problem and would consequently be a good fit with Zumthor’s Thermae.

  • marie

    Absolutly scandalous ! This ugly tower is spoiling not only the place but the spirit of it; what a lack of unconsciousness! I am just sorry some architects can design this sort of project.

  • orphius

    Charming, sleepy Swiss village becomes super rich playground where residents are second-class citizens. There is very little difference between London and Vals it seems.

    Anyone feel like making a documentary, it could he very profitable television?