A Thom Mayne design draws critics -- before it is officially unveiled

Thom Mayne is photographed at his Santa Monica office on March 19, 2005.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles-based architecture firm Morphosis, led by Thom Mayne, has been chosen to design a resort in Vals, Switzerland, adjacent to the iconic Thermal Baths designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor. However, the decision has spurred some grumbling about how the firm was chosen and what the future design might be.

The hotel, known as 7132, is to consist of 100 luxury suites in the popular spa town, which also draws design aficionados interested in seeing Zumthor’s work.

A jury led by Louisa Hutton of the Berlin firm Sauerbruch Hutton was to choose from among a shortlist of proposals submitted by Morphosis, Steven Holl Architects of New York and 6a architects in London. But according to a report published in the Architect’s Journal, the five jurors put an end to the competition without selecting a winner.

At that point, 7132 moved forward with naming an architect, choosing to go with Mayne’s Morphosis. The hotel and Mayne’s office jointly announced the commission two weeks ago. In response, the jurors issued a statement through the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects that distanced them from firm’s selection.

“The three competing schemes were in principle different approaches, providing fascinating answers to some questions but leaving other important questions unanswered,” read the English version of the statement as it was published in Architect’s Journal. “After an additional appraisal exercise there was no consensus on a winning project.”


Some observers have taken to the Internet to critique the selection of Morphosis, with one commenter stating, “It will blight Zumthor’s jewel, I fear.”

Certainly, it’s a whole lot of starchitecture for the same corner of the Swiss Alps -- putting Mayne, who also has a Pritzker and is known for brash, sculptural buildings, next to one of architecture’s more demure holy sites.

The original Architect’s Journal story on the controversy was published last week (and can be difficult to view without a subscription). But it has since been followed up by reports in Dezeen and Archdaily.

Mayne is set to present the new design in New York City in March, according to the news release issued by 7132 and Morphosis.

The architect could not be reached for comment.

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