Wellness

Myths of monsters and men

Surrealist folk tales and moss-covered lava fields have inspired an Icelandic spa retreat that promises to take guests on a journey to enlightenment. Kim Megson highlights the details


Read on turning pages | Download PDF | sign up to CLAD

Tales of trolls, elves, monsters and invisible men roaming Iceland’s majestic volcanic landscape have inspired the design of a proposed spa and wellness retreat located next to a geothermal lagoon.

Architecture practice Johannes Torpe Studio have drawn on the mysterious topography of caves, craters and moss-covered lava fields found in the Snæfellsness peninsula to devise a spa that will be immersed in mythology, storytelling and nature.

The region is home to a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano, which famously starred in Jules Verne’s 1864 science fiction classic Journey to the Centre of the Earth as the passageway into a subterranean world. It is also known from the Icelandic saga of Baroar Snæfellsas, a half-man–half-troll who left the chaotic world of men behind to live in solitude inside the glacier.

Now the volcano could provide the backdrop for The Red Mountain Resort, an 800sq m (8,600sq ft) spa retreat that will take guests on their own version of Baroar’s journey towards enlightenment.

Panoramic mountain and volcano views and vast grassy wetlands flowing with winding rivers will lead guests to the resort. Subtly camouflaged within the landscape, the red-hued hotel will “seem to magically appear just as they arrive.” A sense of surrealism familiar from Icelandic folk tales will be expressed through a series of subtle design features merging the earthly and the otherworldly.

Reflecting glass on the exterior of the main building will create a mirror effect, allowing it to disappear into the landscape, while portals and tunnels will be placed throughout the complex to enhance the feeling that guests are following in Baroar’s footsteps.

At the heart of the 150-bedroom resort will be an extensive spa, in which guests will voyage through a series of ‘emotional stages’, each of which will be articulated through different expressions of Icelandic nature, including wind tunnels, fire baths, rain curtains, ice pools and pitch black slides. “We want to create the illusion that guests are entering another world when they arrive at the resort,” says studio founder Johannes Torpe. “We have envisioned the Red Mountain Resort as a place that goes beyond traditional wellness and pampering, and dares to invite its guests to confront whatever is troubling them.”

A man-made 1,000sq m (10,700sq ft) geothermal lagoon is designed to look like a natural extension of the landscape and will feature shallow passages, rapids and still pools, with the water flowing into the reception of the hotel – blurring the line between outside and inside.

While still at the concept stage, Icelandic company Festir Ehf is currently doing geological checks and testing the nearby geothermal water.

The Spa Journey

Studio founder Johannes Torpe describes the spa experience

LOST - The steamroom’s foggy atmosphere represents the sense of being lost, and is a trigger for rediscovering oneself

Lost
Lost

CONTEMPLATIVE - Clay baths create an intimate, peaceful space for self-reflection and internal stillness in the contemplative area of the spa

Contemplative
Contemplative

EXPOSED - At the volcano fire bath, guests access an inner state of vulnerability and acceptance, stepping outside their comfort zones

Exposed
Exposed

CONFRONTED - The contrasting effect between light and dark encourages guests to overcome fear and creates a sense of intrigue and mystery

Confronted
Confronted

CLARITY - An open-roofed ice bath uses natural light to create a state of clarity. The contrast of going from hot to cold creates energy

Clarity
Clarity

ENLIGHTENED - The highly sensory experience of floating allows guests to lose touch with the physicality of their bodies and have a feeling of transcendence

Enlightened
Enlightened
Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: Alliance Leisure Services Ltd
The company’s core business is the provision of facility development and support for local authorities, educational establishments and leisure trusts that want to improve or expand the leisure products and services they offer.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
Vastu points to bedrooms which are designed using a brown colour palette
"Vastu can be dated back to at least the 6th century and is deeply rooted in the physical and spiritual fabric of Hindu society"

Chris Godfrey of global architecture practice Hirsch Bedner, on bringing a spiritual dimension to residential architecture in India

The Bacots moved to Serenbe in 2014, attracted by the sense of community
"We love being surrounded by people who teach us and make us better. Serenbe has also really enhanced our thinking about the value of nature and being outside on a daily basis"

Eliza Bacot and her husband Benton talk about living at Serenbe with their family

The Sangha Retreat was built on the shores of Yangcheng Lake in China’s Jiangsu Province
"The key to a happy and successful society is a philosophy that places wellness at the heart of everything"

Calvin Tsao and brother Frederick are reviving the Chinese culture of physical and mental wellbeing with their Octave Living development company, as Christopher DeWolf discovers

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Homebuilder Barratt London added vertical gardens and green space to its sellout GWQ Westgate House apartment development
Ben Channon
"I hope architects gain a genuine understanding of how buildings and spaces affect our mental wellbeing and how their design can be tailored towards making people happier and healthier"

Ben Channon has written Happy by Design, a new book about how architecture affects our mental health. He explains how we can all be happier at home

Experience the euphoria retreat
"Come to Euphoria Retreat if you’re looking for a full health-boost, you’ll leave feeling completely rejuvenated"

Wellbeing Escapes and Well Home have partnered to bring you this special offer for the Euphoria Retreat in Greece

Mia Kyricos is senior vice president and global head of wellbeing for Hyatt Hotels Corporation
"We’re now smart enough to know that it’s the environments we choose to surround ourselves with that impact our health and wellness"

Home wellness is the future, says Hyatt’s global head of wellbeing

cladkit product news
Aotta launches sound panels made from hemp husks
The panels are designed to maintain 'healthy spaces' and consist of Hemp husks fashioned into a natural porous membrane that absorbs sound
Lauren Heath-Jones
Russian design studio Aotta has developed a range of eco-friendly, sound-absorbing panels made from the waste products of hemp seeds. ...
Dornbracht launches 'next generation' experience shower
Rainmoon is an innovative sensory shower experience designed for use in the home
Dornbracht is taking experience showers to the next level with its multi-sensory Rainmoon concept. “Rainmoon is a culmination of bliss ...
Carlo Ratti's 'wonder wall' robot could become reality with kickstarter campaign
Unveiled at Milan Design Week, as part of Ratti's Living Nature installation, the Scribit is the result of Ratti's ongoing investigation into and development of writing machines
Lauren Heath-Jones
Carlo Ratti Associatti has developed an intelligent robot capable of writing and drawing on vertical surfaces. Called Scribit, the device ...
cladkit product news
Zaha Hadid Design partners with Royal Thai to create carpet collection celebrating Zaha Hadid's legacy
The carpets capture Hadid's notable use of layering and interweaving as well as her use of light and shadow
Lauren Heath-Jones
Zaha Hadid Design has partnered with carpet manufacturer Royal Thai to create a new carpet collection inspired by the work ...
Bartok Design installs 'transformative' soaking tubs in SpaFusion at Pallazzo Varignana
Bartok Design creates traditional Japanese soaking tubs
Lauren Heath-Jones
Bartok Design, a Japan-based supplier of Ofuro (Japanese bathtubs), has completed a major installation at the newly opened SpaFusion at ...
EAS PREVIEW: Bright Buildings to exhibit BrightOpen designs
Bright Buildings will be showcasing its range of BrightOpen buildings
At this year’s Euro Attractions Show (EAS), design and architecture firm Bright Buildings will be exhibiting its range of BrightOpen ...
cladkit product news
Designworks launches new glow-in-the-dark tile collection
The tiles contain light-absorbing luminous pigments so they glow-in-the-dark
Lauren Heath-Jones
High-end tile supplier Designworks has created a range of illuminous mosaic tiles for commercial use. Designed to bring light into ...
Artemide excites with latest lighting collection
Designer Alejandro Aravena created O to 'reconcile the needs of the natural and the urban environment'
Lauren Heath-Jones
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Herzog and de Meuron, Neri & Hu, MAD Architects and Elemental, the firm of Pritzker winner ...
Bright Buildings to create UK's first 'open sky' swimming pool
Bright Buildings will create the retractable roof for the Open Sky pool at Ivybridge Leisure Centre
Lauren Heath-Jones
Leisure operator Fusion Lifestyle has announced that it will invest millions of pounds over the course of the next three ...