Location: Zürich, Switzerland
Designer: Joseph Smolenicky
Photographer: Walter Mair
Completion date: 2009
The Tamina Thermal Baths is explicitly conceived as a part of the grand-hotel culture. The cultural and aesthetic identity of the project seeks an affinity to both Swiss tradition and the grand hotels of the Baltic coast. For this reason the building volume has a monumental character, in order to stand out as an institution equal to the other buildings in the resort. Simultaneously
the thermal baths are intended to relativise the almost “urban” stonework character of the spa spring hall.
This strategy of using an explici t resort architecture is underscored in the building's formally fanciful oval windows. Seen from the inside, the windows have the effect of overdimensional picture frames. Oval picture frames were widespread in the Victorian era for landscape scenes, whereby the intention in the current project is to give specific expression to the view over the relatively neutral landscape by means of the gesture of the frame.
Metaphorically the creation of the interior spaces of the project has an analogy in cutting clearings in the pattern of a forest by
felling individual trees. This is the reverse of the common design process. The exterior spaces are similarly created by “felling” supports on
the periphery of the building volume. Structurally the building can be more or less seen as a forest, created out of columns instead of trees – a total of 115 supports using the timber of 2,200 fir-trees.
Materially the project possesses the same appearance internally and externally. The snow-white timber battens are carried over internally as wall surfacing. In this sense there is no actual interior architecture to the building, but instead only a whole architecture of the building.
The timber structure of the building is not merely determined by the criteria of the span of the supports. Instead of a focus on the engineering of the function of the supports and the reinforcement of a construction, the structure concentrates far more on spatial phenomena, creating a beauty and
a ceremonial atmosphere. Bathing is celebrated as a cultivated activity.