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    Morphosis releases concepts for Europe’s tallest tower in small Swiss village amidst design backlash

    Geraldine Chua

    US-based Morphosis Architects have released the designs for what could be Europe’s tallest tower in the most unlikely of places – a small hamlet in Switzerland called Vals.

    Rising 80 storeys into the air, the slim 380-metre 7132 Tower will stand as tall as the Empire State Building when complete, with renders showing a glass façade that reflects the building’s idyllic landscape. According to Morphosis, this mirrored surface will draw “an invisible line against the mountain”.

    The building’s podium will serve as a gateway for visitors to the complex, while suspended within the existing tree canopy is a cantilever that houses the hotel’s public amenities, including a restaurant, bar, ballroom, gallery and library. The tower itself is seen as a “minimalist object connecting guests to nature”, its reflective skin and slender profile camouflaging with the landscape and “abstracting and displacing the valley and the sky”. Each floor features only one room with panoramic views of The Alps.

    “Specificity is really the central driver in our practice,” said Morphosis’ Design Director and Pritzker Prize laureate Thom Mayne.

    “For the 7132 hotel and arrival, the incredible setting demands reducing materiality and presence in the design so that, as in all our work, the connection to site becomes paramount. As much as possible, the hotel is a minimalist act that reiterates the site and offers to the viewer a mirrored, refracted perspective of the landscape.”

    Despite Morphosis’ description of a building that is appropriate to its site, the released designs have attracted significant criticism from the architecture community at large. “Skyscrapers in the Alps are an absurdity,” said Vittorio Lampugnani, Professor of Architecture at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, to The Guardian, who also asked if the “gargantuan stack of 107 guest rooms and suites” would “really disappear in a shimmering apparition”.

    “It’s marketing,” architecture critic Benedict Loderer added, speaking to Basler Zeitung newspaper.

    However this is not the first time 7132, which is located next to Peter Zumthor’s famous Theme Vals Spa, has sparked controversy. In February, judges of an international design competition for the tower, led by co-founder of Sauerbruch Hutton Louisa Hutton, sought to distance themselves after the client reportedly jumped the gun to name Morphosis the winner.

    Their statement, issued through the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects, said the initial assessment round left “important questions unanswered”, including those to do with the architectural form, scale, materials and relationship to site.

    The hotel is currently slated for completion in 2019, although it still has to be approved by local planning authorities, who will reportedly put it to a public vote.

    Images by Morphosis

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