Bill Bensley creating 13th-century village in the shadow of Yên Tu Mountain

by Jane Kitchen | 22 Oct 2018

Architect Bill Bensley is working on a national cultural heritage site in Yên Tu Mountain – considered to be the cradle of Trúc Lâm Zen Buddhism in Vietnam – as part of the Vietnamese government’s strategic development plan for the area.

Designed with attention to historical detail – Bensley has created the entire Yên Tu Village in 13th-century style and using 13th-century techniques where possible – the village will include a museum, hotel and hostels.

The 133-bedroom hotel will include a 2,240sq m (2,111sq ft) wellness centre, set to open in February 2019, which will specialise in Zen meditation, herbal baths and remedies, yoga, meditation and wellness counselling.

The wellness centre has also been designed by Bensley, who worked with spa consultants Dorian Landers and Florence Jaffre. It will include a swimming pool, oversized steam rooms and saunas built inside four large brick kilns, and large windows to take in the natural setting around it.

“As Yên Tu does not have hot natural springs, our idea was to evolve the Japanese onsen concept to heating filtered water and simmering roots, herbs and flowers to make various types of hot baths,” said Landers. “Those types of baths were used in ancient times for therapies and/or relaxation. We added herbal steam rooms and herbal scrubs to widen the spectrum.”

Dedicated meditation rooms are also located inside the wellness centre, and the large outdoor square pool is designed after the ancient 5th century monk bathing pools found in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, which was a also great centre for Buddhism.

Treatments in the herbal spa will include a herbal steam bath in the large ‘kiln’ brick steam rooms, where local herbs, roots and floral essences are added to the steam; and herbal body scrubs, using various types of herbs for therapies and skin exfoliation.

Mineral pools use stones and gems from Yên Tu Mountain known for their mineral and magnetic properties. The water flows on the stones before entering the common bathing pool, with the idea that ions from the stones are leached into the water in the process.

“Most treatments are done in a social environment and sexes are separate,” Landers explained. “There are personal options available such as personal herbal tubs, scrubs and massage done with bamboo. Following the tradition of the Tung Lam Zen Buddhist philosophy, there is no direct skin-to-skin contact in any of the treatments to avoid transfers of energy. The treatments are designed to absorb the properties of the herbs, roots, flowers and ions from stones.”

Jaffre has been working on the project over the last few months to finalise the treatments and work on the operational side of things.

“My team and myself have been intensively exploring the thousand years old healing modalities of Asia,” said Jaffre. “This system included philosophy, science and healing. Healing plants from the rich botanical vocabulary of Yên Tu mountains are cleverly blended with science and philosophy to assist guests in the quest of peace and happiness. It is a pilgrimage of self-discovery.”

Yên Tu Village  herbal spa  13th century village  Bill Bensley  Vietnam  Zen Buddhism  Dorian Landers  Florence Jaffre 
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FEATURE: CLAD people – Bill Bensley

Architect Bill Bensley is working on a national cultural heritage site in Yên Tu Mountain – considered to be the cradle of Trúc Lâm Zen Buddhism in Vietnam – as part of the Vietnamese government’s strategic development plan for the area. Designed with attention to historical detail – Bensley has created the entire Yên Tu Village in 13th-century style and using 13th-century techniques where possible – the village will include
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Architect Bill Bensley has created the entire Yên Tu Village in 13th-century style and using 13th-century techniques where possible
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