Last June, several friends and I had the opportunity to stay at Unterhus, a mountain cabin designed by the revered Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The structure, which was located in the remote mountain town of Leis, Switzerland, provided the perfect home base from which we could explore the Alps. Needless to say, the mountains and the architecture were both breathtaking. It was a joy to witness firsthand how Zumthor was able to craft a building that was distinctly modern yet utterly rooted in its place. Mimicking the wooden farmhouses of Braubunden, the building is comprised of simple wooden walls and a slate roof. These walls, however, were not constructed like those of Unterhus’s aging neighbors’. They were conceived as a series of beams digitally fabricated in a nearby shop and then assembled on site. The result is truly remarkable. Within this simple wooden box, expansive glass openings were created to provide views to the ever-changing Swiss landscape. Seeing Unterhus in all its beauty reminded me of the powerful role context can play as we seek to create buildings of enduring value.

A view of the Unterhus from the center of Leis

A view of the Unterhus from the center of Leis

The simple wood and stone construction of the local buildings fit perfectly within the Swiss landscape.

It’s clear to see how Zumthor was inspired by the simple of beauty of the local architecture.

During our time at the cabin we were able to visit the Zumthor designed Thermal Baths in Vals. The stone used for the baths in locally quarried and makes a distinct impression.

During our time at the cabin we were able to visit the Zumthor designed Thermal Baths in Vals. The stone used for the baths in locally quarried and makes a distinct impression.

The cabin is naturally ventilated by the use of a series of small openings in the wall.

The cabin is naturally ventilated by the use of a series of small openings in the wall, relieving the need for conventional air conditioning.

A side street near the center of Leis

A side street near the center of Leis

 

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