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 shone 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, a unique culture, history, people, and natural surroundings differentiate and create a memorable experience. This experience becomes the new currency that people crave, and the experience makes the destination.


Robert Henry,, discusses a recent project in Costa Rica.
Spa and Wellness Designs. RDH Architects NY. Resort in Costa Rica

For architecture, that means creating something 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 on communing with, experiencing, and visiting the heart as a counterpoint to the more compressed, hectic, urban city life. Therefore, preserving a country’s natural beauty and cultural character while integrating that into an experience in terms of one’s stay 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