World's tallest hotel planned for tiny Swiss village

Barry Neild, CNNUpdated 31st March 2015
(CNN) — Mention of the Swiss Alps usually conjures a rush of pleasingly nostalgic images.
Snowy mountaintops.
Rosy-cheeked goatherds.
Triangular chocolate bars.
And gigantic glass skyscrapers.
OK, maybe not the last one, but that could soon change following a controversial decision to construct what will be western Europe's tallest building -- and the world's tallest hotel -- in a tiny Swiss village.
At 381 meters (1,250 feet), the reflective glass-covered 7132 Tower, planned for completion in 2019, will be same height as the Empire State Building.
If it ever gets off the ground, the "transparent and slim" luxury hotel and spa complex will offer unprecedented views of the Swiss scenery.
It'll also dwarf the mountain community of Vals, in southeastern Switzerland, home to about 1,000 people and, by some estimates, roughly the same number of sheep.
That's generated a minor avalanche of criticism, not least from the team of influential architecture experts originally tasked with choosing the building's design.
The 7132 Tower -- named after Vals' postal code -- has been commissioned by the owners of Therme Vals, a swanky alpine spa that can accommodate 1,000 guests in rooms starting at about $250 a night.
The tower's striking appearance, by U.S.-based Morphosis Architects, was finalized after an international competition attracted entries from some of the world's leading structural designers.
Before the results were announced, however, the judging panel called a halt to the competition, complaining that the selection process had failed to address concerns and that "significant question marks" were hanging over the project's scale and design.
Key architect, Thom Mayne, insists his shimmering 53,000 square-meter tower will blend in effortlessly with its rural setting.
"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," he says in a statement.
"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."
The proposed tower's owners have said they want their hotel -- which would feature 107 guest rooms and suites, as well as restaurants, a ballroom, gallery, library, gym, pool and business facilities -- to be one of the five best in the world, with prices set accordingly.
However, since they've still got to persuade local planning authorities who will reportedly put it to a public vote, such lofty ambitions could still be brought back down to Earth.