As archaeological fragments have shown, hot springs around the alpine town of Vals, Switzerland, have lured visitors since the Bronze Age. Fast forward a few thousand years, and today's tourists can tap into the same tradition of a steamy soak in therapeutic waters—naturally heated from geothermic sources to a soothing 86 degrees Fahrenheit—but in thoroughly modern accommodations masterminded by some of the world's best architects.
In the 1990s, a hotel and spa by Peter Zumthor turned Vals into a contemporary architecture destination. Now owned by a company called 7132 (a name derived from the region's postal code), the resort is on its way to becoming a even more popular thanks to 7132's hotel rooms designed by Thom Mayne, Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma, and Zumthor himself. The hotel welcomed its first guests last year, and bills itself as a "veritable mecca for lovers of aesthetic buildings." (ArchDaily points out some of 7132's other expansion plans for the resort have been mired in controversy.)
The spaces are beautiful indeed—and are more like architectural curios than your average boutique hotel accommodations. Each architect designed one individual room themed around a specific material, with the exception of Mayne, whose firm Morphosis had the honor of working on four suites; two of these are decked out in wood slats and the other two are covered in slabs of locally quarried quartzite. The rooms are stoic for Morphosis—which is known for its frenetic and sometimes foreboding facades—until you get to the glass-walled bathroom plunked down in the middle of the room. Needless to say, these suites aren't for the bashful.
Zumthor—a Swiss architect known for his unflinching dedication to restrained design—borrowed a stucco finishing technique from the Italian Renaissance for his room and painted it a glossy black, which adds texture to the walls. Both Ando and Kuma decided to use wood. While Kuma's room is likened to an "oak cocoon" and expresses traditional Japanese joinery techniques, Ando's nods to tea house design (and looks like a typical but well-appointed hotel room).
So whether you're an exhibitionist or a traditionalist, there's a room for you. Spy the hotel in the slide show above.
[All Photos: via 7132]