How 'Swimming in Darkness' Draws From an Architectural Wonder

Swimming in Darkness Cover - Publicity - H 2019
Lucas Harari/Arsenal Pulp Press
Lucas Harari's debut graphic novel borrows from the real-life setting of the Therme Vals in Switzerland.

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's work on the Therme Vals — a hotel and spa built over the only thermal springs in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland — is intentionally overwhelming. It's built into a mountain and devoid of clocks so that visitors surrender entirely to the experience. There is, however, a myth that the mountain has been known to swallow people whole from time to time. The new graphic novel Swimming in Darkness lives in the space between those two facts.

The story centers around Pierre, an architecture student recovering from a breakdown by attending the Vals — the subject of his unfinished thesis — only to find rooms that shouldn’t exist, and another visitor who seems to be searching for the truth behind the mountain's mythology.

The book is the debut graphic novel from Lucas Harari — himself the son of two architects who briefly studied architecture before becoming a cartoonist — with the English-language edition coming from Arsenal Pulp Press, the publisher of the critically acclaimed Blue is the Warmest Color. It has already gathered praise from a number of established creators, including Warren Ellis, who described it as "eerily unsettling and completely mesmerizing."

Swimming in Darkness will be released Nov. 5. Read on for a preview.