Wellness Watch

  • Innovation in Spa Architecture and Interiors

    Eiffel Tower, Paris

    Eiffel Tower, Paris

    The annual Hotel & Spa Forum (Forum Hot Spa) will be held at the George V Four Seasons in the heart of Paris on June 19, 2014.


    This is a meeting of thought leaders within the spa and wellness industry who will be discussing innovation. I’ve been asked to speak on innovation as it relates to spa and wellness design – architecture + interiors. I’m going to be presenting 6 innovative projects that have integrated “Evidence-Based Design,” sharing how to position a property within the current competitive marketplace by integrating distinct design characteristics that promote both a positive guest experience and drive revenue.


    Evidence-based design affects quality of life for clients, practitioners, and end users. It also affects the owner’s financial bottom line. We will be discussing how to increase the wellness commitment, while at the same time bring financial return through innovative design and programming processes. (more…)

  • Can Wellness Design Improve Healing?

    Can Wellness Design Improve Healing?

    Wellness environments, if designed correctly, can promote harmony of the mind, body and spirit.


    As the baby boomers are beginning to age, they not only want cutting-edge technology, but they also want a wellness environment instead of a sick environment. A carefully designed facility can not only promote healing, but it can reduce the patient anxiety, improve staff morale and efficiency, and create a less stressful environment for doctors, practitioners, staff, patients, and clients. It can have a marked improvement in terms of quality of life. (more…)

  • Does Nature Nurture?

    Robert Henry, http://rdh-architects.com, discusses wellness design for a recent project in Costa Rica.Does nature help us relax? Can nature nurture? Think of the ocean. It affects all the senses. Physiologically there’s an exchange between negative and positive ions so our bodies physically respond to that environment. All of that is complemented by the soothing repetitive sound of the waves of the ocean. The saltwater provides additional healing components, being nearly identical with nutrients and minerals as human amniotic fluid. Imagine a camp fire. Just staring at the mesmerizing flames can relax you. You can smell the wood and feel the physical warmth.


    In terms of wellness design, we bring together the man-made and natural environments. When we’re fortunate enough to work on a project that’s located within a beautiful natural environment, we sensitively integrate the natural landscape with the building, allowing the building to symbiotically “dance” with nature along the lines that Frank Lloyd Wright developed with Falling Water. There the building attempts to integrate into the beauty of the natural surroundings, infusing the experience with what nature simply provides.


    We were involved in the concept and planning stages of a project in Costa Rica near the water’s edge.  We planned this eco-centric resort, so that the building seems to hover above the landscape.  This allows the tidal water to move in and out, below the building.


    The rooftop is naturally exposed, so we created a rooftop garden taking advantage of the sun and providing a green roof that insulates the building. Here we’re working with the natural site context and reinforcing what nature has to offer by allowing the breeze to cool the building naturally with a louvered facade that directs breezes while blocking out the strong northern sun.  We used hybrid mechanical systems that work with nature’s elements to heat and cool the building including solar panels for heating 80% of the building’s water, thus minimizing the impact on the environment and its surroundings. Working with passive design techniques, we created a building, which integrates a breathing skin through louvers that can be opened and that allows the natural air currents to move above, below, and through the building.


    When it comes to working with wellness environments in a more urban or suburban setting, we bring nature inside the physical architectural environment. We can do that through small viewing gardens that on a larger scale become more experiential. We integrate more of nature and softscape, or planting, than hardscape. This allows not only the patients moving through the building, but everyone that’s working there, to experience a healthier environment versus a sick environment. It’s providing an escape with a natural setting reintroduced into the building interior, and yet still providing all necessary clinical and technical aspects of a medical center.


    These experiences with nature bring us into the present moment, absorbing the beauty and giving our worries and nervous tension over to nature.  We become invested in the experience letting nature nurture us.


    Robert Henry

  • Decluttering Design


    The average American can spend a year of his life looking for lost items. Clutter creates both a psychological and physiological effect occupying physical space and clogging the mind. Spaces we design are relatively free of spatial clutter and confusing circulation.  People generally say that they feel serene, more comfortable, and better able to focus in spaces we have designed.


    Organized environments contribute to relaxation which contributes positively to the overall guest experience. Consider how first time guests arrive at a new large hotel where they need a GPS system in order to find their way around its endless corridors or to the hidden elevators.  I think we have all experienced that frustration.  Spatial organization provides psychological comfort, taking away the anxiety brought about by getting lost and losing your way, and reinforcing a more positive and enjoyable experience.


    Robert D. Henry Architect
    One can only imagine the time one spends lost in complicated buildings where the design didn’t focus on clear guest circulation. The same holds true for design.  An overstimulated environment can create discomfort and stress. Our design approach reinforces the canon from Mies van der Rohe, that “Less is More.” Our work focuses on spatial organization and decluttering design.


    We design our projects around a spatial concept, often as a result of some of the inherent qualities of the specific site.  For instance, with the Littman residence, our overall goal was to take advantage of the abundant light in the space, and link it to the rooftop garden. To achieve this, we worked with a simple design concept and idea of “entry, path + goal.”  From the entry, we created a linear path leading to a sculptural stair that led to the client’s rooftop sculpture garden. This axis also delineated public spaces to the left and private spaces to the right. The plan was one of clarity versus complexity, and this clear sense of circulation and spatial organization not only brought ease to visitors, but became a calm sanctuary for our client.



    Another example would be our current project, a 16,000 square foot integrated health facility. Here, the objective was to create a very clear patient path into the building. From the parking lot, patients are welcomed under a canopied entryway, and visually directed to the front desk.

    Robert Henry, http://rdh-architects.com/, discusses the benefits of an organized environment and how to design one.


    Once at the reception desk, they view the “healing garden” beyond, a central two-story space with clerestory windows creating a relaxed natural environment, which acts as a social condenser.  In private cabanas within the healing garden, clients meet for the first time with a life coach, to help determine which areas in their lives they would like to focus on.  From there, the client may branch off into any number of options;  go to a changing room, a clinical room or a fitness area. These spaces are linked to simplify the patient experience. An uncomplicated circulation path allows patients to feel more comfortable, moving through the medical process and procedures with ease.


    Spatial organization and uncluttered design provide for a higher quality of life, allowing one to enjoy a more calm and balanced journey.


    Robert Henry

  • The Man Cave vs The Lady’s Lair

    Robert Henry, http://www.RDHArchitects.com, 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