Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Best Architecture Since 1980?

Do you watch Charlie Rose?  I'm only an occasional watcher, but this segment with Matt Tyrnauer discussing his piece in August's Vanity Fair on the best architecture of the last 30 years, was really interesting.  The clear winner was the Guggenheim in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry.  Interestingly, the building with the second most votes was the Menil Collection in Dallas, designed by Renzo Piano.  One completely huge, shiny and exuberant, and the other extremely minimal.  Also interesting was the third choice, The Therme (thermal bath) at Vals, Switzerland, designed by Peter Zumthor-- a building that Matt Tyrnauer classified as completely obscure to anyone outside the architectural profession.

I've never been to the Menil, or Bilbao, though I'd love to see both.  I have however been to the thermal baths in Vals, and I can not imagine a spa that could be more beautiful or play to all of your senses at once. Sound, smell, texture, light and dark, hot and cold, openness and compression are all explored inside the spa.   It was amazing but very hard to get to.  It's deep in the Swiss Alps, up a long, narrow winding two lane highway with a deep chasm to one side, and large trucks full of bottled Valser water careening down the mountain toward you.  At least it feels that way when you have to slam on your breaks because they suddenly become visible around one of the hairpin curves.  So, despite its relative obscurity, it definitely belongs on the list.

What do you think?  Have you been to any of these places?  Which is your favorite?


  1. I'm so jealous. I can't believe you have been to the Zumthor spa. I have looked at photos of it so many times. It looks absolutely incredible. You'll have to tell me more about your experience.
    As for the other choices, Gehry seems like a bit of a given. I work everyday in an almost Gehry (he partially renovated the Art Gallery of Ontario) and it is pretty stunning to be in. It's actually a very warm and encompassing space which isn't always the case with contemporary architecture.

    Oh, and you have to tell me what an aqua de jamaica is? (did i get that right?)

  2. Emma-- OMG, I'm going to send you a separate email to gush about the Vals Therme. Its so amazing that words don't adequately describe it!