The space is L-shaped, following the building’s outline, so that at some points the outer walls are made of translucent glass through which natural light flows delicately to illuminate the entire space just as much as is necessary. People looking in from outside can see shadows going by and perceive the presence of people and activities inside the building.
While all the wellness facilities are arranged along the L-shaped route, the entrance to each of them is separate to ensure privacy. This is intended to make users feel perfectly at ease, directing them towards the facilities without forcing them to use them and leaving plenty of room for the main traffic routes.
People coming out of the dressing rooms can go two ways: one way to the bar and lounge area, the other to the wellness route with its white marble mosaic floors and walls. The entrance to the sauna is concealed behind a big wall, which the architects have covered with heat-treated yellow poplar wood, and lit up by beams of light filtering through in between the panels. There are three semi-circular spaces in succession: the Turkish baths covered with ceramic mosaic tiles, the cold shower with its simple semi-transparent polymer wall, and the cold pool. Continuing on, we come to the hydromassage tub, where most of the light comes from the translucent glass end wall, through which shadows outside the building can be seen, blending into the relaxing environment.
In order to avoid a corridor effect, the L in the route is not formed by long perpendicular walls but by a succession of short, slightly angled walls which add motion and variety, accompanied by slight changes in the angle of the floor. Brazilian walnut is a particularly evocative choice for the ceilings: a very dark type of wood in a wealth of different hues contrasting with the white of the mosaic tiles on the walls. The ceiling follows the diagonal variation of the walls with the varying slope of its boards, adding even more dynamism.
Heat and water therapy has its symbols, and in today’s society the architecture of these places has acquired a compositional vocabulary of its own, expressed in details such as the choice of furnishings and especially the floor and wall coverings. In these spaces users are constantly in contact with the floor and walls, which are not only symbolic of the type of space but the first element we perceive in the space. White marble, yellow poplar, ceramic tiles, Brazilian walnut and translucent glass are visual messages chosen to make this project stand out from standardised wellness centres all over the world.
by Mara Corradi
Design: Saucier + Perrotte Architects (Gilles Saucier, Andre Perrotte, Jean-Philippe Beauchamp, Anna Bendix, Trevor Davies, Yves De Fontenay)
Structural design: Stavibel
Electrical and mechanical design: Leroux,Beaudoin, Hurens et associes
Client: Gestion Riviere du Diable
Location: Montreal, Quebec (Canada)
Total surface area: 930 m2
Construction date: 2009
Spa floors and walls of white marble mosaic
Lounge floor and ceiling of Brazilian walnut
Sauna walls and floor of Peuplier heat-treated yellow poplar
Turkish bath walls and floor of ceramic
Photographs: Marc Cramer