Engaging the Senses in Spa Design

Robert D. Henry Architects - Engaging the Senses in Spa Design

Our senses are continually bombarded with prompts to buy certain things, or vote a certain way, or think along certain lines. Blaring flat screen televisions, saturated with advertisements engineered to exploit the senses, have become ubiquitous wall fixtures in commercial settings from banks to sports bars. In such an environment of noxious, un-curated stimuli, it’s no wonder that more and more people are flocking to spas to quiet their minds and re-set their souls.

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As sanctuaries, spas require a different kind of architecture. In my work, I aim to make use of all five senses – not for cynical advertising ends, but as effective milieus to encourage both overt and subtle enhancements to a patron’s mood. 

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Sight… When working on the Amelia Island Plantation Spa near Jacksonsville, I was able to take advantage of the natural beauty of the location to please the eyes from both outside and inside the facility. A central meditation garden serves as the hub between clustered guest pavilions, which were built to minimize their impact on the ecosystem and to maximize the connection to the local aesthetic. From inside the treatment rooms, plantation shutters open up on a view of the water – a beautiful sight to behold while getting a relaxing massage.

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Touch… Before the massages and baths, the very first tactile experience a patron has is while entering the spa. Choosing a doorknob with a stimulating feel to it is only the first step; by using a material with intrinsic healing properties, like copper, the regenerative process can begin before even entering the spa. Such detail can provide a myriad of opportunities to engage the senses in subtle, but effective, ways.

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Sound… This is an involuntary sense that cannot be easily deactivated. When designing Ajune, the first medical spa in New York City, I kept this in mind during the planning of its Hall of Whispers. Designed with elegantly folding white scrims, the soothing sound of a nearby fountain fills the Hall as patrons progress through the spa experience to their treatment rooms. The result is a very sensuous, cocooning feel to the space.

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Scent and taste… In my design for the 20,000 square foot DePasquale: The Spa in Morris Plains, New Jersey, part of my goal was to engineer an intimate spa experience for couples to enjoy together.

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While enjoying a soak in a deep steeping tub just right size for two people, juices and fruits are served, and candles infuse the air with relaxing scents like chamomile and eucalyptus. The couples room became not only the spa’s signature treatment, but its most popular service.

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By catering to a person’s five senses, a spa caters to the whole person. It is our unique blend of sight, sound, touch, scent and taste that makes us human, and it is humanity that is so often missing from our hectic lives.

 

 

Robert Henry
roberthenry@rdh-architects.com
www.rdh-architects.com
212.533.4145

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