Is the tiny town of Vals really the right place for the tallest building in Europe?

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Is the tiny town of Vals really the right place for the tallest building in Europe?
The plan unveiled for the gargantuan hotel in Vals // Photograph © Morphosis

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Is the tiny town of Vals really the right place for the tallest building in Europe?
The plan unveiled for the gargantuan hotel in Vals // Photograph © Morphosis

“Vals’ magic formula is very simple,” reads the promotional blurb for the 7132 hotel at Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s famous alpine spa resort, which has been a site of worship for countless design pilgrims since it opened in 1996. “1000 residents, 1000 sheep and 1000 hotel beds. This magical ratio is the secret of the relaxed atmosphere in the Vals valley. Discretion is everything.”

Not any more. The owners of the hotel – property developer Remo Stoffel and local quarry entrepreneur Pius Truffer – have today unveiled plans to build the tallest building in Europe right next door, an 80-storey silo stuffed with luxury bedrooms.

The new hotel tower, designed by Pritzker prizewinner Thom Mayne’s practice, Morphosis, will shoot up 381m into the clouds (almost a third taller than the Shard), a looming spectre visible for miles around the tiny alpine village. It is a gigantic mirror-clad middle finger aimed at the region; indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more obnoxious gesture to inflict on a sleepy spa town.

In a design statement that verges on farce, Mayne describes the proposal as “a minimalist act that reiterates the site and offers to the viewer a mirrored, refracted perspective of the landscape.” He suggests that it might be possible to hide 53,000 sq m of luxury development with a trick of the light, noting that “the tower’s reflective skin and slender profile camouflage with the landscape, abstracting and displacing the valley and sky.” ….

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