The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd

Industry insights

The Future of Spa Design

From social distancing to antimicrobial materials, the pandemic has changed the way spas will be designed. We asked some of the biggest names in wellness what the spa of tomorrow will look like


Kay Sargent
Senior principal and director of WorkPlace at HOK

COVID-19 has necessitated the need to provide physical distancing, enhanced cleanliness and assurances of health and safety. It has also added anxiety on top of stress and burnout that was already at an all-time high before the pandemic. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs noted that until a person’s physiological and safety needs are met, they would be incapable of thinking about the kinds of things we now know to be a prerequisite to wellbeing. To create spaces that meet our psychological needs, we should start with the basics. Continue reading...

Don Genders
CEO, Design for Leisure

Even four months into the pandemic in the US and Europe, Design for Leisure didn’t have a single enquiry from any client asking how to ‘redesign’ their spa for the Post-COVID world; in fact, we have seen the popularity of thermal rooms continue to rise. Addressing COVID-19 has been only a passing concern on the many working design calls DFL has been on, yet self-proclaimed leaders/visionaries have been burning up the Zoom lines with knee-jerk design solutions for our “new normal.” Continue reading...

Emma Darby
Chief operating officer, Resense

It is still unclear how pandemics will impact our lives in the long-term. What we do know, however, is that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic varies greatly from one region/country to the other. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and we must take a market-specific approach to this challenge. Continue reading...

Liz Ugrin
Co-founder, Illyria Wellness

In these times, we must release business concepts that no longer serve, and transform to fit new circumstances. Illyria Wellness recently delivered two spa concepts to help our clients adapt. In one, buildable indoor space was tiny, and talent was a problem. Continue reading...

Alberto Apostoli
Founder, Studio Apostoli

After the pandemic, every spa will have to make some changes, and in fact many have already done so. A complete checkup of the ventilation system is mandatory. If possible, they should equip the structure with automatic doors, taps, dryers etc. It would be helpful to eliminate or coat those surfaces that are difficult to clean. Continue reading...

Tracy Lee
Founder and president, TLee Spas

The COVID crisis has reinforced my belief in the positive power of nature: placing it front and centre of the spa experience through outdoor facilities, natural light and fresh airflow. It also reinforces a broader trend in luxury hospitality design for intimately scaled environments that emphasise privacy and personal space. Continue reading...

Amy McDonald
CEO, Under a Tree Health & Wellness Consulting

in several of our projects, we are also seeing a new model arising that offers both a resort experience and a residential accommodation component, much like Airbnb. This will allow for multi-generational and or small group stays, so people feel like they are in a home with their inner circle, but with access to the expected amenities of a hospitality property. Continue reading...

Mary Lynn Mellinger
Director of design and planning, WTS International

"Space” has always meant “luxury,” but in a post-COVID world, “space” will also mean “healthy”.  The ability to keep one’s distance will become paramount in our minds, requiring more square footage in spaces where people congregate.  Places such as locker rooms will require more area for social distancing, which is anticipated to become the norm.  No more squeezing past each other on busy days!  Continue reading...

Bob Henry
Founder and principal, Robert D Henry Architects

How are we designing wellness environments differently post-pandemic? In a word: hygienically. As a client opens your door, they must immediately feel they are in a healthy environment – one that prioritises their wellbeing and safety. Today, we need to design a hygienic cocoon both physically and perceptually. If we can’t clean it, we don’t specify it. Continue reading...

Beverley Bayes
Director, Sparcstudio

As we move into the next decade post-pandemic, spa design will continue to embrace new technology, but retain human and sensory experience at the heart of the spa in order to future-proof the business model for years to come. Tech should enable and facilitate in a discreet way, rather than translate into clinical, sensory deprived environments. Continue reading...

Josephine Leung
Group director, design & development GOCO Hospitality

In the wake of the pandemic, I see spas and wellness destinations utilising design and technology in new and innovative ways to create guest journeys that are focused more on health and immunity enhancement, and performed in guest-centric spa treatment suites, where therapists and treatments come to them. Continue reading...

Diana F Mestre
Founder, Mestre & Mestre Spa & Wellness Consulting

Ontological Design is a concept that describes the circularity or feedback loops inherent in the way we design our lives. We shape the world and spaces we inhabit and they, in turn, mould us, changing our behaviour and lifestyle. In other words, what we design is designing us back. We mirror the environment we create, and our ethical responsibility is to create the future structures that will improve our existence. Continue reading...

Claire Way
Managing director, Spa Strategy

We are at the beginning of a new juncture of disease and design, where confidence controls what kind of space we want to be in. Physical spacing and sanitisation will drive the design of wellness spaces moving forward. Where development budgets once allocated more to the aesthetics of the space and less to how the mechanics of it could improve health, in a post COVID-19 world, these less visually appealing items will demand a larger slice of the budget. Continue reading...

Matteo Thun
Founder, Matteo Thun & Partners
Photo: Nacho Alegre

For spa projects, stringent hygiene and generous space will be a top priority for interior design. Besides private treatment rooms, the layout of high-traffic social spaces will be revisited in terms of proportions that allow for social distancing and an intuitive access to sanitisers and wash basins throughout the design. Continue reading...

Kim Collier
Founder, Collier Concepts and Jamu Organic Spa & Rituals

If we only had one plant, one seed for humanity and sustainability for the world to thrive, it is the 6,000-year-old hemp plant. Food, fibre, fuel, textiles, building materials, medicine and more – over 50,000 potential uses from the entire hemp plant continue to contribute to global wellness, from soil to oil and beyond. It all starts with the soil and seed genetics, keeping in mind the bio-accumulating benefit of long tap roots of hemp, which effectively “decontaminate” the soil. Future spas will integrate hemp into healing cannabinoid products and services, as well as “hemp-up” the entire hospitality experience, including interior design, furnishings, built environment and fine dining. Continue reading...

Mohammed Ibrahim
CEO, The Wellness

We always include hygiene as one of the most important considerations that influence our design; however this has now gained additional importance due to the pandemic. Most wellness facilities have begun focusing more on hygiene and creating dedicated areas for sanitisation; the future design of spas will put more consideration into this element from the concept stage. Continue reading...

Sonal Uberoi
Founder, Spa Balance Consulting

The best way to approach spa design now is to think beyond just pandemic-proofing our industry. While younger people will likely be braver in engaging the outside world, we must not lose sight of the fact that the bulk of the western population is aged 50 years and above. We can’t turn a blind eye to this large segment. Continue reading...

Tom Devin
Managing director, Devin Consulting

Does your spa offer some of the safest places for your guests to relax? The answer is probably yes. In a sauna, the temperature is typically 70ºC - 90ºC. When one considers that the COVID-19 virus is killed at a temperature of 56ºC, then it is clear that the sauna is a very inhospitable environment for the virus, and subject to proper social distancing, should be a very safe place to relax. Continue reading...

Graeme Banks
Design director, Barr + Wray

There are still a lot of unknowns with COVID-19 and whether it will be eradicated, so we have to be thinking of ways to adapt our spa designs going forward. Social distancing and minimal physical contact can help combat the spread of the virus, so looking to the future these aspects have to be taken into consideration. Continue reading...

Rene Pier
Co-founder, Schienbein + Pier

In ten years, we will hopefully be looking back at what has been achieved in reducing the carbon footprint and paving the way for emission-free building construction throughout the world towards 2050. We as spa architects need to embrace this green building movement, because our buildings are the ones that need to be healthy in a holistic manner. Continue reading...

Marie Soliman & Albin Berglund
Founders, Bergman interiors

It is important to separate the temporary impact of COVID-19, such as heightened sanitation measures, social distancing and impact on travel, versus the longer-term impact on consumer attitudes and behaviour. We believe that the impact long-term will see people wanting to make an even greater investment in health and wellbeing. Continue reading...

Riccardo Turri
CEO, Starpool

While attention will obviously be put on materials, quality and hygiene in the near future, I believe that tomorrow’s spa will need to have a clear identity – unique, distinguishing, and specifically designed according to the needs of a clear-cut user group. The market will inevitably adopt, at least at an early stage, some “private” solutions, with an increasingly strong focus on hygiene and the reorganisation of spaces and services that are offered. Continue reading...

Thorsten Bichler
Group director of international sales, Klafs

Following COVID-19, there will be an even greater desire to be fit and well, and wellness and self-care will become more of a priority rather than a trend. Instead of a slow-down during the pandemic, we have seen an increasing number of enquiries for thermal rooms in commercial projects and especially in the ‘wellness at home’ sector, which will see an incredible upturn. Continue reading...

Daniella Russell
Founder, Daniella Russell Global

This pandemic will necessitate long-term changes to how we design and operate spas. Designs will be based on a far more minimalistic approach, with decluttering needed to cope with our new sanitisation protocols. We will also introduce more technological solutions, making the look and feel of spas more futuristic. Continue reading...

Neil Owen
Director, Spa Vision

We expect that experiences will increasingly become health-benefit driven, from the wellbeing benefits of daylight therapy, to the respiratory benefits of halotherapy or the warming therapeutic effects of infrared. Relaxation and de-stressing will become increasingly important, and private self-guided relaxation experiences such as dry floatation will play a more significant role in the future. Continue reading...

company profile
Company profile: Robert D. Henry Architects + Interiors
Robert D Henry Architects (RDH-Architects) was founded in 1990 in New York City by Bob Henry, known as the “sensuous architect of serenity.”
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