|Courtesy Tschuggen Grand|
Designed by Switzerland's most prominent living architect, Mario Botta, the Tschuggen Grand Bergoase ("Mountain Oasis") spa is built right into the side of the Weisshorn mountain, but its hallmark is the huge slatted towers, bellied and bowed like wind-filled sails, that puncuate the roof. Depending on one's mood and the time of day, they seem variously to echo the fir trees and nearby mountaintops, the sails of a bevy of solar lightships, or a huddle of Capuchin friars. Inside, there's a feeling of immense, enveloping quiet. The towers allow light to pour into the cathedral-like reception area. The central section is an atrium of terracing, and the roof alternately slants and straightens as it rises, like an artificial sky. The design culminates on the fourth floor, where a long granite wall backs the hydrotherapy pools. Above them is a long narrow opening that allows the sun, at its zenith, to send bars and daggers of light across the brickwork and the water. The architecture, the light, and the rippling and eddying of the blue-green water are transfixing, a meditation on the relationship between earth and sky and man's place among the elements. — J.D.S.