I'm always a bit concerned where I see those wood projects I really wonder about two aspects:
1- thermal conductivity. How well isolated can they be when you have full beams of wood with one side outside and one inside.
2- durability. I really appreciate wood for SOOO many properties, but what is really the realistic durability of woods? from an ecstatic standpoint, from a maintance standpoint (do I need to regularly treat it), and from a functional standpoint (what happen with heavy duty use)?
Would love some inform opinion
2. Wood durability (species and quality being equal) depends on cyclical moisture exposure. Submerged timber can remain intact for centuries. In the rain forest the same wood might rot in a few decades.
From a construction standpoint, the glass in the house would dominate the conductive heat losses of the wall assembly.
From a maintenance standpoint, one piece of old wood is fungible with a new piece and two 2x4’s properly nailed together are stronger than a single 4x4…that’s why light frame construction uses double top plates, jack studs, etc.
Aesthetically the potential for patina is a reason an architect might choose wood finishes.
I think the beams were 6" of solid wood.
2-- Alpine woods are incredible. The table top in that picture was unfinished. The instructions of the house say that if you spill something, you just wipe it off with a damp rag.
I was terrified of eating fondue or jam-and-bread with my kids there, thinking we would mess up his table. Fact is: we did have spaghetti and spilled sauce, and the damp rag treatment didn't leave any stains.
Zumthor also seems to have a big family and there is evidence his grandchildren operate like normal kids in that place.
My son gave me a wooden box carved from alpine wood, and the maker intentionally kept it unfinished. The maker told me that the oils in the alpine wood provide a natural protection; +1 yr later and that box sits in our kitchen holding salt. It has developed a natural patina despite lots of mid-sautee grabs, opens, and pinches.
TLDR: like cedar, ipe, and other special woods, I think the wood used to build this house will last a long time in that natural environment.
2- If outside is painted it needs to be repainted at some point. There are also untreated facades or facades treated with fire . Untreated wooden facade must have air gap behind to prevent rot. In case of untreated wood - color and shape is not stable. But in case of facade this is not issue. Structural elements and window/door frames should be treated though.
: ie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakisugi
I don't know if I'd live in a house designed by him (although the author of this article seemed to love it). Might be too minimalistic -- thinking of the Kunsthaus in Bregenz for example. Of course this cabin is made of wood, not concrete. But in terms of a house that feels like a home, I'd go with Alvar Aalto; his designs ooze cozyness in a way that Zumthor's don't, and for a famous architect, they feel surprisingly pragmatic and sensible :)
While you can still visit it as a non-guest you need to reserve in advance and prices are 60 francs (~60$) on Monday / Tuesday and 80 francs on other days.
Even though Switzerland is an expensive country such prices for a spa visit without any extras are beyond the outrageous.
The poster has a point, though, in that after the sale the vibe changed. The connected hotel used to be reasonably priced for their smaller cabins/rooms to stay the night after a soak in the Therme. Now the entire Hotel is focused on Chinese/middle-eastern wealth clients. They even have (or at least used to last time I checked ~2019) free helicopter pickup within Switzerland if you stay there (as if heli traffic in the valleys wasn't annoying enough already).
I used to go there after hiking in the mountains for a couple of days, and it was a fantastic cap to a short excursion into nature, spent without showers in mountain huts. It's just not possible anymore - and apparently not desired by the new owner.
-- Like everything in Switzerland, it was easy to reserve spots online. I think we went on a Monday. Therme Vals is a well-designed space, and the spa experience includes ~18 different zones and temperatures. Some of them are gimmicks, but nonetheless delightful play of space, sound, temperature and texture (stone).
Our family isn't into the pampering-spa experience, but I think all of my children can still describe that place 1yr after---worth it for me.
Are we even talking about the same complex? Felsentherme is in Austria, apparently?
We are a family of 5, and in Switzerland, that means 2 hotel rooms x 3 nights. Staying in Zumthor's cabin is certainly a splurge, but marginal utility of staying in a special place well exceeds marginal costs.
Also, if you are irrationally nostalgic like me, the renting experience felt like how airbnb felt in 2011...before all the bad experiences which have swamped it in the last 5yrs
Also remote as heck, rented for several days at a time and with pretty much nothing to do there, but eat. Fantastic build though.
An analogy: staying in an (artist) architect house is like having a meal in a Michelin restaurant.
Lesson for me: perfection isn't necessary for the experiences I want from exceptional architecture.
It shows the floor plan.
This cabin is at ~1500 meters of altitude, in a village with a road and several other buildings. For rural Switzerland, that's not living far away from civilization - that's just living in civilization. I would even assume you get normal postal service like every other place in Switzerland not separated from the outside world by cable car.
I'm sure it's worth investigating about the architecture of e.g. the huts of the Swiss Alpine Club . These are up there in the ~3000 meters range, only accessible by multi-hour hikes and only seasonally maintained. German-language Wikipedia has a great lot of information and pictures .