I’m getting out of town this weekend for a spa retreat, taking advantage of my twice monthly earned #FreeFridays (brillant employee happiness policy, brought to us by a mother). My weekend will be California living magnified: driving down country lanes in a convertible, hiking the hills, soaking in hot pools; eating locally raised produce and being mindful; crystals, incense, yoga and healing massages; and most importantly in this connect age…no cell phone reception, no television, no distraction. This immersive experience, where body and soul quiet, is what a California spa should be like.
Therme Vals resort in Switzerland is a different breed of spa. The setting and architecture harks back to an earlier spirituality, something more embodied or animistic. The spa is brilliantly simple, elegantly detailed, and feels as if it is a part of the earth. The interior is designed to track the movement of light through slits in the ceiling. Rooms frame the view of the mountains, directing, telling you what is important. It’s something outside of your body. The spa was designed by Peter Zumthor to look as if they form of cave or quarry-like structure. The grass roof structure of the baths resembles the foundations of an archaeological site, and reveals the form of the various bath rooms which lie below, half buried into the hill-side. Most strikingly the walls are composed entirely of locally quarried Valser quartzite slabs.
Learning and understanding the design of this spa became one of the cornerstones as to how I approach design. To simplify into a few words, I have learned the poetic value of using raw materials as the substance of design, not merely decoration. You should know by now that I’m not about pattern, but about color, texture and substance. In practice, this means I will say “why tile just one wall with tile or stone slab, when you can immerse yourself in a full room of the material” and “why transform one material to look like another, celebrate the beauty of the each material”.