Travel is inextricably linked with architecture but interestingly you don’t necessarily need architecture first for a place to become a tourist destination and Brighton historically is a good example, tourists initially came for the water.
In the 18th Century Dr Richard Russel claimed that sea water had healing benefits either by drinking it or by bathing in it. This led to the aristocracy following the latest health craze and heading to Brighton which then developed architecturally; initially with bathing machines and then later by hotels as others followed the trend.
This link between water, travel and architecture entered my thoughts a few weeks ago whilst amongst a mountain range in Switzerland, my destination a sublime spa hotel encapsulated in a piece of architecture that stuns me every time I visit.
As the only thermal springs in the Graubünden canton in Switzerland, Vals, too became a destination through its water.
The architecture came in the 1960’s via a huge hotel complex of 1000 beds built around the spring which by the 1980’s had gone bankrupt. Interestingly the whole complex was then bought by the village and they commissioned architect Peter Zumthor to redesign the baths. Even when the baths opened in 1996 Zumthor was still relatively unknown as an architect. However, only two years later this seminal building became a protected building by the Canton Graubünden which is an incredible achievement. The Hotel and the Therme are now probably one of the greatest spa destinations in the world.
The building is a stunning experience of calmness, wonder, and discovery that affects all of your senses. Fortunately cameras are banned in the spa but do visit www.therme-vals.ch for more images and information. Alternatively if you’re feeling brave view Janet Jackson’s video of the track Every Time on Youtube as it was filmed in the spa!
The hotel has also been redesigned by Zumthor and I would recommend a stay in the yellow stucco suites and also a meal in the adjoining Red Restaurant.
For me the water and the architecture is the biggest draw, it simply has to be experienced to be believed.