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Spa in Nature - LIXIL Foundation

2nd Place - Award of Excellence

team: Patrick Aprent, Ivan Matas, Lena Kohlmayr, Dominik Fill, Raphaela Schiefersteiner, Ben Reynolds, Valle Medina

architecture student competition 


The design for the Spa in Nature-competition at an experimental site of the LIXIL Foundation i n the north of Japan suggests a radical exposure to the surrounding nature and a space that is only protected and created by hot steam. The materials are used following their characteristics and occurrences in the area. Therefor lava stone serves as the functional base from which spaces of different qualities emerge. The proposed design for the bathhouse was selected to be presented in Tokyo at the finalists jury panel in April 2017. The design was pointed out as the most ambitious design proposal, though the jury in the end selected the design of the Kyushu University to be realised. 


A gesture of displacing a landscape of volcanic rock forms the basis of the project. The landscape is modulated by heat underfloor, and an absence of clearly materialised form through mist regulates spaces and gives privacy. Bathers are exposed to nature but comfortably protected by discoverable climatic zones and spots. A fragment of volcanic rock from the Akan caldera is set into the existing landscape on-site.

The project strives to translate the notion of a borrowed landscape into an architectural space, that vanishes from the existing landscape when not in use, and only appears when inhabited. The landscape is at grade with the existing site and embeds all infrastructure and functions necessary to function as a spa.

Employing the idea that public places of bathing often recreate nature and its elements to construct a certain quality, the project is a reproduction of a natural environment.

Without a materialised separation of space, mist and heating screens create spaces of different qualities whilst still offering a necessary degree of privacy. The mist creates an ephemeral space and the resultant architectural volumes only appear whilst the spa is in use. The mist does not clearly define forms since it reacts to natural influences (eg. breezes, sunlight etc.), but the defined positions of the outlets indicate geometrically- defined spaces. The absence of architecture in its materialised form engenders a direct exposure to nature; enclosures, protection and comfort is instead provided by climatic zones, defined by the physical phenomena of heat radiation, convection and humidity. 

Heated screens follow the sequence of a bathing ritual that regulates different temperatures, humidity and privacy, and similarly basic components like the shower, taps and racks to hang transparent clothing bags and towels, protrude from the volcanic rock connected to functional services below. Based on the idea of radiant water tubes that lie underneath and heats the landscape’s surface, these functional objects subtly define how one should use the space. 

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