Picky Nicky discovers the game-changing wellness of Matteo Thun's new Swiss retreat

Picky Nicky feels good about a game-changing new Swiss clinic
All’s well that tends well: Picky Nicky feels good about a game-changing new Swiss clinic.
(Image credit: Danae Diaz)

It’s been 15 years since the Vigilius Mountain Resort (W*64) was completed, 1,500m up Monte San Vigilio in the Alto Adige region of Italy. Here, the silence, views and, most of all, the air, scented with trees, make for an unforgettable experience. Constructed from local larch, stone and clay, Vigilius was my first encounter with the responsible architecture of Matteo Thun. A few years later, I would return to this region, to the nearby town of Merano, to write a piece on a municipal amenity like no other – Thun’s Terme Merano (W*87), 7,650 sq m of public baths with 25 pools set over five hectares.

This autumn, Waldhotel officially opened on Swiss mountain Bürgenstock, high above Lake Lucerne, and it’s a game changer in terms of wellness. Thun has built eight floors into the mountain, constructed from gabions, using stone taken from the excavation, and local ‘moon’ wood (this is timber cut when the moon is waning and the sap content is at its lowest – it is said to produce better quality wood and use less toxic wood preservatives). Maximum integration between the mountain and the architecture means the hotel just disappears into the landscape. All guest rooms and medical and wellness facilities face south, towards a lush valley dotted with the occasional farm house, while the seventh floor dining room, bar and library offers spectacular views over the mountains.

Jacket and shorts by Reigning Champ

What to wear at Waldhotel: A loopback cotton-jersey zip-up jacket (£170) paired with drawstring shorts (£105), in grey or blue, by Reigning Champ, from Mr Porter. mrporter.com.

(Image credit: Danae Diaz)

Waldhotel is quite unlike my regular spa haunt, the Vivamayr, or the Lanserhof, both in Austria, as its medical and wellness offering is vast. There are guest rooms fitted out specifically for post-operative rehabilitation, as well as a large dermatology centre, a dentistry department and a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre. It also offers detox and weight loss programmes, mobility programmes for fitter guests, and a mindfulness-focused destress programme.

Thun’s design incorporates two wings: in the east wing are facilities for rehabilitation, physiotherapy and personal training, while the west wing houses numerous spa facilities, including indoor and outdoor pools, Kneipp baths, saline tanks, saunas, hammams, ice rooms, relaxation cabins and massage rooms. During my stay I made full use of the medical and wellness facilities, but it was the architecture and context that may have been the most beneficial. Thun’s timber structure frames the long-distance view, so tranquil and a stark contrast to the screens we stare at all day, while the smell of the timber, the grass, trees and herbs, and the sound of cow bells switched me to mindful mode. When it comes to wellness design, Matteo Thun is the master.

1616 Arita Japan Outline collection

Most wanted: 1616 Arita Japan’s Outline collection features six platters, each with a different graphic, designed by Pierre Charpin. ¥47,000 ($415) each, 1616arita.jp/en.

(Image credit: Danae Diaz)

What’s on offer at Waldhotel

Diagnostic and laboratory analysis, including spiroergometry and echocardiography.

Internal medicine, including a DEXA scan, which measures bone mineral density.

Orthopaedics, including invasive surgical procedures and non-invasive clinical work.

Nutritional advice, including weight-loss programmes and special menus, based on the results of the diagnostic and laboratory analysis.

Sports medicine for athletes, including a cryotherapy ice lab, where you stand naked for three minutes at -110°C.

Mobility programmes for fitter guests.

Psychologists and special therapists to treat stress, trauma and exhaustion and offer support for weight loss.

Dentists and dental hygienists.

Dermatology clinical assessments with diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. 

As originally featured in the January 2019 issue of Wallpaper* (W*238)


For more information, visit the Waldhotel website

Also known as Picky Nicky, Nick Vinson has contributed to Wallpaper* Magazine for the past 21 years. He runs Vinson&Co, a London-based bureau specialising in creative direction and interiors for the luxury goods industry. As both an expert and fan of Made in Italy, he divides his time between London and Florence and has decades of experience in the industry as a critic, curator and editor.