Canonisation of Therme Vals

Therme_Vals_outdoor_pool,_Vals,_Graubünden,_Switzerland_-_20090809Therme Vals designed by  Peter Zumthor in 1996. Graubunden, Switzertland

Zumthor wanted to capture the pure essence of bathing with no distractions just simply  the sympathy of stone and healing power of water. He believed that time should be suspended whilst enjoying the baths which was why initially there are no clocks in the building as time would be a distraction. The space transforms bathing back into a primitive ritual, where the architecture emphasises the purity of water.




Analysis of “Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals in print”

by Steve Parnell

Picture4.jpgParnell, Steve. ‘Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals Baths In Print’. N.p., 2009. Web. 15 Mar. 2015

“From Vogue to the LA Times, the representation of Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals baths in print is an exercise in architectural canonisation” Parnell 2015

This article illustrates the influence of the media upon architectural representation and the sensitive relationship they share. Parnell demonstrates this through the canonisation of Therme Vals, highlighting an almost saintly characteristic. The article reveals a deep agenda within these commonly accepted images, allowing an alternate viewpoint for the reader. Parnell challenges the status quo surrounding architectural images, particularly that of Therme Vals showing the complexity within what appears to be a simple photo shoot. “Adverts are the financial lifeblood of architectural magazines” this quote from Parnell’s article ‘In Praise of Advertising’ expresses the underlying symbiotic connection between both disciplines and how advertising can be an effective tool.

Picture6Frocks+Mortar.,. ‘”Body Building”‘. N.p., 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2015

The purpose of Parnell’s article was to highlight and inform an audience of the over emphasis and glorification of Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals. Through writing and publishing this article Parnell is able to reveal the canonisation in which the media portrays this experience. Moreover, Parnell felt that the importance of this issue within architecture may have been overlooked jeopardising the conceptual intentions of the architect.

Picture5 Parnell, Steve. ‘Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals Baths In Print’. N.p., 2009. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

Parnell’s article expresses how through the media’s manipulation of graphic representation an adjusted perspective is created for the audience. “The facts of utilization and marketing show clearly that this architectural concept too can be devastated by consumerism.” Parnell highlights the idea that because of choreographed publicity a false perception is portrayed by the media.  In his article he refers to the July 1997 Vogue Swimwear Issue (Body Building) and how an unrealistic representation of space can be constructed through advertising. Parnell then discuses Susan Spano’s piece for the LA Times, a first hand experience of the vast contrast between media portrayal and genuine physical interaction. The article expresses how the space shown through consumerist representation is sterile and removed, conveying an uninhabited void, “Transforming it into a canonised commodity”.


Does the media tarnish the reputation of all modern architecture, is the experience of reality ruined through canonisation?

By Shaun Matthews

article available at:



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