Spiralling ecological statements in stone: Centro de Cultura Ambiental Chapultepec
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by Meghna MehtaPublished on : Apr 15, 2020
Designed by Mies Van Der Rohe in 1929 for the World Exhibition in Barcelona, the German Pavilion bought a minimal design aesthetic to the then Bauhaus movement, and later became an inspiring building to refer to for structures in modernism. The Wellness Pavilion, designed by Austrian architecture firm Smartvoll architects for a private client, carries a similar austerity as the Barcelona Pavilion while bringing it to use for the more modern times.
The design for the Wellness Pavilion in Hinterbrühl, Southern Austria has been built as a private temple complex of the 21st century. The term ‘wellness temple’ is the common marketing word for hotel basement bathrooms with palm tree decoration. At first glance, the pavilion does not appear like it has been designed to facilitate the functions of a wellness spa. This is where it brings an element of surprise. The ‘pavilion’ is unlike other closed spaces and in this case, serves the function of a spa, and proves to be a walk-away from the conventional idea of how spas are designed across the world.
The Wellness Pavilion is located at the end of a park opposite an old villa, much like the Gloriette (a building in a garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings) at Schönbrunn Palace. While the modern architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is known to have been inspired by the De Stijl painter Piet Mondrian, the floor plan of the Wellness Pavilion is reminiscent of paintings by Mondrian as well. Straight intersecting lines of varied thicknesses with geometric proportions and placements. Smartvoll architects have translated this formal compression of Mondrian’s 2D paintings and inscriptions of early modernism into the architecture of third dimension. The pavilion consists of monolithic slabs, and thus reminds one of the Stonehenge or Greek temple ruins, of which only geometric arrangements of free-standing columns can now be seen.
Much like a sculpture, the private spa has been created out of a single material called the Rauriser quartzite. It is a natural stone that can withstand steam, chlorine, sauna heat and winter frost without much damage. “The vertical slabs do not look like walls, the horizontal ones do not look like roofs. This impression is created because the walls pierce and protrude above the ceiling tiles to repel any support,” says the team of architects. They further add, “The consequence of this design is that the roof elements appear to float. In the rectangular three-dimensional grid, the stone have been placed against each other rather than giving an assembled feel to not make it appear as if they were assembled".
The functions can be seen placed between the parallel, staggered stone slabs. Every space and function is oriented and connected with an outdoor area to impose a distinct quality. The pavilion is open in all three directions while there is a continuous flow of movement established in the interior and exterior forms. In summer, the pavilion has been imagined as one continuous outdoor area to make it as open as possible to enjoy the natural light. In winter, the glass surfaces are concealed in the wall and ceiling panels slide in front of and over the pavilion to enclose rooms and spaces. The composition of the slabs to each other has also been strategically planned to prevent any line of sight from curious neighbours, making sure that at any time of year one can easily stroll unclothed between the jacuzzi, steam bath, sauna, shower, pool, sunbathing area and bar.
The labyrinthine, nested floor plan differentiates surprising spatial qualities in a structure of almost free-standing stone monuments. They appear as not subordinated to a functional idea, but as are allowed to stand for themselves as their own. The project inspired from the minimalist and betòn brut ideas of the modern movement create an aura of peace catalysing the intent and an atmosphere that would be ideal for a spa.
Architects: Smartvoll architects
Project team: Philipp Buxbaum, Christian Kircher, Olya Sendetska, Dimitar Gamizov
Project location: Hinterbrühl, Austria
Completion year: 2019
Gross built area: 175 sqm
Project size: 175 sqm
Site size: 600 sqm
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