Deafening Silence: Morphosis designs a skyscraper in the Alps next to Peter Zumthor’s famous Therme Vals spa

Architecture International Newsletter Skyscrapers Unveiled
Morphosis recently unveiled renderings of its 7132 Tower luxury hotel for Vals, Switzerland. (Courtesy Morphosis)

Morphosis recently unveiled renderings of its 7132 Tower luxury hotel for Vals, Switzerland. (Courtesy Morphosis)

Can a 1,250-foot-tall skyscraper qualify as “a minimalist object” under any circumstances? It depends on who you ask—particularly if the building in question, the 7132 Tower hotel designed by Los Angeles–based architecture firm Morphosis for a site in Vals, Switzerland, would go up next to Peter Zumthor’s understated Therme Vals spa.

If built, 7132 Tower would rise next to Peter Zumthor's 1996 Therme Vals. (fcamusd / Flickr)

If built, 7132 Tower would rise next to Peter Zumthor’s 1996 Therme Vals. (fcamusd / Flickr)

Morphosis’ Thom Mayne said yes, calling the slender, reflective high-rise “a minimalist act that reiterates the site and offers to the viewer a mirrored, refracted perspective of the landscape.” The project’s critics, meanwhile, accuse Morphosis and client 7132 Limited of disrespecting the hotel’s surroundings, both natural and built. Zumthor, who completed the quartzite-walled Therme Vals spa in 1996, appears to be taking the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” approach. BD Online quoted a firm spokesperson as saying, “He doesn’t want to comment on this hotel.”

The hotel's tripartite form comprises a podium, cantilever, and mirrored tower. (Morphosis)

The hotel’s tripartite form comprises a podium, cantilever, and mirrored tower. (Morphosis)

The tower—which would top Renzo Piano’s Shard by over 200 feet to become the tallest in the European Union—is still a long way from being built, requiring planning permission and a public vote prior to construction. Among the marks against it are the manner by which Morphosis received the commission. What began as a competition ended in February with a unilateral decision by 7132 Limited to narrow the three-firm shortlist down to one, over the jury’s objection. On the plus side, Mayne’s concept has garnered a vote of confidence from Tadao Ando, whose nearby Valser Path park is expected to be finished by 2017. “I believe it will harmonize in the beautiful landscape and will attract and impress various guests and visitors from all over the world,” said Ando.

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