When you consider the factors that most influence wellness, which elements first spring to mind? A healthy diet, dedicated exercise regime and good work-life balance may be some of your first thoughts.
But where would architecture be on your list? The built environment plays a huge factor in influencing our mental and physical wellbeing. The quality of indoor air, the abundance of natural light and views, building materials with reduced (or no) chemicals, use of plants and the promotion of exercise via staircases and open spaces all combine to influence the wellbeing of a building’s inhabitants.
Nowhere is this more evident than in spa architecture and design. Spa architecture has the power to instantly promote feelings of calm and happiness, working in harmony with any good spa’s goals.
But sometimes a visit to the spa can be an underwhelming experience: you’re hustled through a dark corridor to a cramped treatment room, with lazy signifiers of relaxation (think token white orchids and relentless Tibetan bells) ushering you along the way.
The best spa architecture and design can transport the visitor to an authentic and immediate place of total relaxation. The space effortlessly imbues tranquillity: minimalist touches and clean design enhance expansiveness and clarity, while the masterful use of lighting, meditative spaces and sensory indulgences combine to take your spa visit to the next level.
Here are three spas with exemplary architecture & design, heightening the traditional spa experience into an unforgettably zen journey.
1. Tschuggen Grand Hotel - Arosa, Switzerland. The winter wonderland.
Swiss starchitect Mario Botta’s sleek Alpine spa, the Tschuggen Bergoase, takes the concept of synthesizing the built environment with nature to another level: the ultra-modern spa is carved into the mountainside.
Nestled in the majestic Alps, the open-plan spa consists of four levels comprised of swimming pools, sauna, fitness and relaxation areas and treatment rooms.
The minimal interior emphasizes space and light, with only three building materials used: smooth Arosa granite, maple and glass. The intriguing Rock Grotto entices visitors to experience the seasons as represented by fog, mist, summer showers and winter storms.
From the outside, a magical series of nine “trees of light” peak out of the mountainside and offer an enchanting glimpse of the luxurious spa below.
2. Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa, Amalfi Coast, Italy. The restored monastery.
The sophistication and glamour of Italy’s Amalfi Coast are embodied in the Monastero Santa Rosa, a boutique hotel housed in a 17th-century monastery. Perched atop a dramatic cliff, the hotel was restored in 2012 and retains many original architectural features: vaulted ceilings, original wooden doors and stone walls form reminders of the building’s austere past.
The spa honours the Italian tradition of thermal bathing, with a succession of hot and cold pools linked by warm rooms and original arches. The spa carries the monastic theme through to its product range: the 800-year old Santa Maria Novella brand (founded by Dominican friars) is used.
Architect Francesco Avolio de Martino worked to preserve the monastery’s muted interior while reimagining the cascading multi-level gardens. The pristine terraced gardens, sweeping panoramas of the glittering Mediterranean and breathtaking infinity pool form the setting of the outdoor spa, where lavish treatment pavilions overlooking the sea await lucky spa-goers.
3. La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco. The Moorish masterpiece.
Frequented by illustrious patrons including Alfred Hitchcock, Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich during the first half of the 20th century, La Mamounia suffered an unfortunate redesign in the 1980s. French designer and architect Jacques Garcia was tasked with leading the hotel’s €100-million facelift to restore the elegance and romance of years past.
La Mamounia reopened its doors in 2009 and its restored palatial glory is something to behold, striking the perfect balance of Art Deco and arabesque features. The spa has a distinctively majestic feel; indeed, the hotel is named after its impressive 200-year old royal gardens replete with palm groves, jasmine and olive trees.
Three hammams, opulent indoor pool, nine private treatment rooms and outdoor massage cabins form the impressive spa. Horseshoe arches, gilded columns, intricate tilework and billowing curtains abound – this is Moroccan decadence at its most refined. The elements of the traditional hammam are represented: Argan oil, rose water, black soap and clay all form part of La Mamounia’s intoxicating experience.
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