Personal Thoughts

  • The Global Spa and Wellness Summit

    Recently, I spoke at the 8th Annual Global Spa and Wellness Summit (GSWS), held in Marrakech, Morocco. The Summit shines a light on the $3.4 trillion wellness industry and was attended by futurists, economists, and wellness experts. I presented ” Peek Into the Future” about the impact the design of architecture and interiors can have on the emerging trends within the wellness sector.


    People are looking for authenticity in terms of a wellness experience. When you’re visiting Marrakech, you want to experience Morocco. As goods and services from around the world become nearly identical, it’s the unique culture, history, people and natural surroundings that differentiate and create a memorable experience. This experience becomes the new currency, which people are craving. The experience itself makes the destination.


    Robert Henry,, discusses a recent project in Costa Rica.

    Resort in Costa Rica

    For architecture, that means creating something that is regionally relevant and born out of the site. A design that embraces innovation ultimately creates an inspiring environment for guests. Designing an all-encompassing experience is our signature design approach. We planned an eco-centric resort in Costa Rica so that the building seems to hover within the canopy of the trees and lightly touches down on the landscape.  The tidal water moves in and out below the building, allowing the building to symbiotically “dance” with nature. So we will see this focus toward communing with, experiencing, and visiting nature as a counterpoint to the more compressed, hectic, urban, city life. Preserving a country’s natural beauty and cultural character, while integrating that into an experience in terms of one’s stay, therefore, is supremely important.


    Rendering of Canyon Ranch Living in Chicago


    Another important insight is that, by the year 2030, 80% of people will be living in urban settings. Currently, the world is made up of 200 countries, but that’s quickly going to shift to 600 cities. Within urban settings, we’re trying to design and create healthier environments. Here, programs and all one’s needs will be condensed and, ideally, within your living environment. This harkens back to our Canyon Ranch Living in Chicago, where we designed the interiors for a “wellness tower”, a mixed-use building containing, living, relaxation & wellness all within the building. There will be a 220-unit residence, a restaurant managed by a chef and a nutritionist, a wellness support system with doctors and staff focusing on both physical and mental health, and there were fitness and relaxation areas with spa treatments, all that support within your domicile. Rather than travel to these destinations, they are all under one roof.


    Both aspects focus on integration: Rooting an experience within a unique “experiential landscape” or integrating programs and activities within a single building providing efficiency and convenience. We are designing an emerging architecture of wellness buildings and communities promoting a healthy lifestyle.



    Robert Henry

  • It’s New! It’s Exciting! It’s Governors Island?

    Robert D Henry,, discusses a project for Governor's Island.


    One of the projects unveiled at the annual Hotel & Spa Forum in Paris last month was the QC Terme – a 70,000 square foot European hydro therapy-spa on Governors Island. The project is for Quadrio Curzio, a group from Milan, Italy that has 5 other European spa locations. Our proposal was selected from among 30 international firms competing for the project with the Governors Island Trust.


    The overview for the island is to create a destination of wellness and relaxation gardens, and a respite from the hyperactive New York City environment. It will be a romantic and restorative escape for New Yorkers to visit this “wellness island,” which has a considerable historic presence for New York City. Governors Island, in Upper New York Harbor, contains an historic fort that was built during the American Revolution.


    This is a very exciting project.  It will include three separate buildings that are centered around a courtyard of outdoor pools. The buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. We’re taking a preservation stance regarding these buildings, which were formerly occupied by the Coast Guard, and will now be turned into a campus of wellness. (more…)

  • The Man Cave vs The Lady’s Lair

    Robert Henry,, discusses the interior staples needed to make a Man Cave room. There’s been some research done on means of escape for men and women.  Men, when they get overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out, have a tendency to retreat into a convenient and comfortable space. In that space, they can surround themselves with things they know and that reinforce them. Think “Man Cave.


    The man’s reaction is pure escapism, but on the woman’s side, it is more social. Women will seek out others in order to talk things out.  The “Ladies Lair” will be larger to accommodate the socializing.  It will be a more soothing place like a home spa or a spa sanctuary.


    When you think of the location of these two personal places, the metaphorical man cave is usually located in a basement, often subterranean or below the earth. Like a grumpy old bear, men relax in their cave after an intense day and change gears from the working world into a more sensible home life.


    A woman’s retreat, is more like an aviary; a high space that is bright, sunlit, not reclusive and retracting. Men are rooted to the ground versus women who are more like birds, ethereal, in the trees, soaring to the sky, nature and light.


    The design of the Man Cave will contain straight lines, square corners and be sturdy with strong furnishings. In contrast to a woman’s space which is often curvy, soft and organic.


    So what goes into the man cave?  Number one, the recliner, and why is that? Because a man needs to be able to rest his tired feet and relax in his own individual seat that can be adjusted to accommodate his specific individual comfort zone. It’s not a sofa, it’s not a couch, but it’s tailored for the individual and highly interactive, it can be adjusted specifically to work with that particular man’s preferences.


    Next would be the television as that’s what we turn on to tune out. It’s a total distraction and allows us to turn our brains off.  It doesn’t have to be anything too important or topical, preferably sports. Third would be a bar and/or a small refrigerator with his favorite beverages, preferably alcoholic, and a few snacks to further provide that sense of comfort.


    Another important aspect would be a gaming table or console, video games and/or table games like pool or air hockey. Physical activity helps us unwind, a way of getting out the tension through play.


    For the man we reference, a darker palette, gray, metallic, chrome, glass, think strong in personality;  the ladies lair is “outfitted”  in more natural tones that one finds in nature. Fall colors or pastels like your tans and moss green.


    Texture is also important in the lady’s lair, so highly textured, soft, drapery, silks, fabrics that are soft to the touch, versus a rough tweed or wool which is more aggressive to the touch. Man cave think – leather, metal especially like blackened steel or stainless steel, complimenting dark woods.


    Robert Henry

  • Choreographed Luxury

    The Fall will be here before we know it, and with it, the New York Junior League’s Fall House Tour. Last spring, I took them to the Littman Penthouse, warmly touted as “Best in Show”.


    Robert D. Henry,, discusses the design elements in the loft style home of Luda ContiThis season, I’m inviting them to the loft of Luda Conti. Luda is a multi- talented woman; a successful spa owner, a professional ballroom dancer, and a beauty and wellness diva. We previously designed her signature Avanti Spa and Salon in Manalapan, New Jersey voted Salon of the Year in 2009 by Salon Today magazine.

    Now we finally had a chance to work with Luda on her own personal residence.  The apartment is in the financial district with views of the Statue of Liberty along the Hudson River, and is an extension of her very social and stylish lifestyle. A keyed elevator opens to her own 3,000 SF floor within the loft apartment building.

    Robert D. Henry,, discusses the design elements in the loft style home of Luda Conti


    Coming off the elevator, you proceed down a long gallery hall with a view to the open kitchen. A dramatic 20’ custom designed crystal chandelier stretches over a white marble prep island + communal dining table, which visually terminates on a white baby grand piano.




    Robert D. Henry,, discusses the design elements in the loft style home of Luda Conti



    You are welcomed into a large entertainment area,enveloped in long metallic backlit silver draperies, which create a dance performance space around the piano. Lounge seating showcases the veiled city views where white leather couches with dark brown saddle stitching, compliment the dark brown wood floor.




    While the public domain is enveloped in a white shell with brown leather seating and dark brown floors, the master bedroom suite reverses this concept.  The walls, ceiling and floor are all rich chocolate brown with white textured mink bedding. A large translucent sliding glass panel separates a personal spa from the master bedroom suite; it contains a couple’s tub, an experiential shower and two sculptural sinks. The “cocooning” intimate master bedroom suite is a perfect counterpoint to the “very grand” white living room, and that counterpoint is very much a reflection of its owner.

    Robert Henry

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  • Design for Profit

    Robert Henry,, discusses his speech at the 9th Annual New York Spa Symposium conference, titled “Design for Profit.”The 9th Annual New York Spa Symposium conference, sponsored by the New York Spa Alliance and Mary Tabacchi, of Cornell University, was held on May 21st at the High Line Hotel in New York City. I spoke on “Design for Profit,” as spas of all types have been somewhat challenged during this economic downturn.


    How do we create a profitable spa  in the current market conditions?


    One of the initial projects that I spoke about is the Vdara Spa,  part of the City Center Las Vegas. The design director for MGM gave us the opportunity to choose between a 50,000, 40,000 or 20,000 sf spa, as there were three different spas to be built in the City Center complex. I opted for the smallest of the projects. Later, he asked me why and I said “Bigger isn’t always better. If we work with a smaller project our intent is to create the jewel. If we create the more intimate and manageable project, (manageable being the most important aspect), I think we’ll have a differentiator among large projects.”


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