Bath & Barley indulges in the beer-brewing tradition of Belgium

WeWantMore design studio brings Czech Republic's beer spa concept to Brussels, unifying it with Belgium’s famous beer-brewing tradition for the design of Bath & Barley.

by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Nov 11, 2022

What is better than drinking beer in a rustic bar with a wooden ceiling, exposed brick walls, and barrel tables? Perhaps a beer spa where you can relax in a hot tub while having craft beer.

Beer spas are a popular concept witnessed in the Czech Republic region, merging the relaxation of a spa treatment with the comfort of a draught beer. However, in Belgium, which is separated by a few countries and is known for its waffles, chocolates, and a world-famous beer tradition, beer spas aren't a familiar idea. With nearly 1500 styles, the beer-brewing tradition of Belgium was officially recognised in 2016, with its inscription on the Representative List of  UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Though Belgium's beer production accounts for less than one per cent of the world’s beer production, the diversity of beers found in the country contributes to its renowned tradition. An omnipresence in the past, present, and future of the European country, beer and its related processes hold a folklorish essence in Belgium’s culture. Beholding this long-standing tradition and giving it a new perspective, WeWantMore design studio has introduced Belgium's first beer spa—Bath & Barley in Brussels.

In the design of Bath & Barley, WeWantMore design studio focused on creating a space with a sense of relaxation and intimacy | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
In the design of Bath & Barley, WeWantMore design studio focused on creating a space with a sense of relaxation and intimacy Image: © WeWantMore

A curved copper installation, inspired by ancient copper kettles used to brew beer, visible from the streets through the glass facade marks the introduction of Bath & Barley. The lobby space is an extension of this copper installation and shapes a curved sculptural form with bar counters, wall displays, and an island with draft beer pipe. Elevating the experience of the space is the dramatic ceiling design with hanging dried barley and hops. Leading from the lobby is the first spa that hosts three wooden bathtubs with draft beer pipes in between them, a sauna, and other functions. The seating of the spa spaces is made out of dried barley and hops, imparting a complete sense and ambience of a beer-producing space. With technical areas and storage occupying the rest of the ground floor, the additional spas are hosted on the lower floor.

  • Inspired by the ancient copper kettles used to brew beer, a curved copper installation provides a glimpse of the spa at the entrance | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    Inspired by the ancient copper kettles used to brew beer, a curved copper installation provides a glimpse of the spa at the entrance Image: © WeWantMore
  • The exposed walls, raw concrete and blue stone complete the earthy feel of the ground floor | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    The exposed walls, raw concrete and blue stone complete the earthy feel of the ground floor Image: © WeWantMore
  • The building itself housed a beautiful vaulted cellar aiding to its presence in the old city centre of Brussels | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    The building itself housed a beautiful vaulted cellar aiding to its presence in the old city centre of Brussels Image: © WeWantMore
  • Bath & Barley is Belgium’s very first beer spa | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    Bath & Barley is Belgium’s very first beer spa Image: © WeWantMore

Taking barley—the primary raw material of beer production and placing it as an integral component of the interior design, WeWantMore studio heightens the visual and olfactory experience of the space. Narrating the same, the designers say, "Their perfume adds a sensorial element to the spa experience, while the dangling branches soften up the warm lighting even more." Complementing the natural materiality of barley, the exposed brick walls, raw concrete, and blue stone are used in an earthy tone on the ground floor.

  • In the downstairs area, the designers worked with more traditional materials like copper, grain and stained glass | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    In the downstairs area, the designers worked with more traditional materials like copper, grain and stained glass Image: © WeWantMore
  • The minimally illustrated icons are part of the visual identity but return in the interior design in a steel version | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    The minimally illustrated icons are part of the visual identity but return in the interior design in a steel version Image: © WeWantMore

Situated in a building in Brussels' old city centre, the existing building holds an architectural character resembling the Art Nouveau style. Following the design character, the lower floor had an existing vaulted cellar. Therefore the interior design of the downstairs area leans toward a traditional tone. The use of copper, grain, and stained glass in this space makes the concept into a vision, keeping alive Belgium's age-old beer-brewing culture. Extending the symbolism of traditions to the detailing, the stair railing adorns diverse visual symbols of knights, motifs, kettles, and beer barrels, and the glass partitions have paintings reminiscent of church window art. "The stained-glass screens offer spa guests some privacy, while the church-like illustrations depicting beer-brewing monks and priests are yet another link to Bath & Barley’s story," remark the designers.

  • Bath & Barley merges beer, bathing and Belgium’s infamous beer heritage inside a single space | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
    Bath & Barley merges beer, bathing and Belgium’s infamous beer heritage inside a single space Image: © WeWantMore

Weaving storytelling into the spatial experience of the design, the designers employ a material palette as the main narrator; using barley in multiple areas and detailings to depict the beer-brewing traditions of the region. Thus, reinventing barley as an element enabling different functions. By redefining motifs and symbols from traditional architecture through the use of steel, the designers are able to revive their significance in the contemporary world. The stained glass partitions depicting church-like illustrations further add visual representation to the beer-brewing practice, imbibing a sense of nostalgia, emotions, and storytelling to the visitors. With the coming together of these elements, Bath & Barley becomes a space that oscillates between the old and new, the past and present, and the history and future. With an intervention that treats design as a medium of storytelling, WeWantMore drafts an experiential space in a beer spa—a rather new typology for Belgium.

Bath & Barley: Floor plans | Bath & Barley | WeWantMore | STIRworld
Bath & Barley: Floor plans Image: © WeWantMore

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