Melding the Urban Spa with the Resort Spa

In the January/February 2017 edition of Professional Spa and Wellness, Bob was interviewed regarding the topic of urban spas. The question being asked was: What are the different challenges you face when designing an urban spa vs a resort spa in natural settings?


Melding the Urban Spa with the Resort Spa
Nestling into a beautiful natural setting – Amelia Island Plantation – Resort Spa

“In a resort setting, nature provides the solution; you can just go out and take a walk and relax in an inspired, natural garden setting, ‘nature nurtures.’ In an urban environment, we try to recreate the calm that nature naturally provides as best we can for guests,” he says.


“In the design of urban environments, it’s all about getting the guest to relax and drop their shoulders down, changing their frenetic energy and allowing them to let go and unwind. City dwellers really need relaxation, and the sooner you can alter their energy from stressed-out to blissed-out, the more successful the spa experience will be,” Henry says. He adds: “[At Robert D Henry Architects] we’re really conscious of designing spaces that soothe and nurture guests; we create transition spaces, where clients are brought a warm chamomile tea and then asked [what they truly desire from their spa visit].”


Melding the Urban Spa with the Resort Spa
The urban spa welcome – Mandarin Oriental, Miami

“Especially in an urban spa, the challenge is to transport guests to another world, replacing their hectic urban [environments] and stress and replace it with a cocooning nurturing space.  


Henry, whose firm is currently working on redesigning the pool at the Mandarin Oriental New York, says that lighting is pivotal. Consider the Mandarin’s global traveller, “We’re [focused] on helping that guest re-calibrate their circadian rhythm and adapt to the new time zone they are in. We integrated special lighting that produced a cooler blue wavelength in the morning, which energizes the guest, while in the evening, that lighting transitions over to an amber wavelength, creating a more peaceful, restful environment,” that produces melatonin for the guest, calming them down and preparing them for a restful sleep.


Melding the Urban Spa with the Resort Spa
Rendering of the pool renovation proposed for Mandarin Oriental, New York


Designing a Spa in a beautiful natural context is easier than trying to recreate that same “wow” factor in the urban spa. Henry says “, Mother nature does all the work in those bucolic settings”. “As designers and architects, it’s often when we’re given the more difficult problems to solve that real breakthroughs occur.” The design of an urban spa provides just that challenge.


Robert Henry