A sensory path through the bowels of the earth, suspended in an ahistoric and timeless place amidst the play of water and dynamic spatial suggestions: the wellness centre in Romagnano Sesia is the contemporary interpretation of ancient baths or Middle Eastern hammams. Like them, it is not merely a place to salve both body and mind and to recuperate physical and mental energy, a peaceful oasis where we can rediscover our identity, listen to our inner spirit, indulge ourselves and reawaken our senses, dulled by the strict automatic actions of day-to-day living. It is also a place to meet and socialise, and cast out the spectre of the void of our existence by communicating with the soul.
In its attempt to move beyond the prevalent architectural banality of this type of structure, this project pursued both functional research, for the proper layout of the areas, and lexical research, to develop a symbolic repertory capable of expressing the new significance of complete well-being, meaning our physical, mental and emotional equilibrium, and the harmonious rapport between the individual and the universe.
The new building features three main areas: the gym, the swimming pool and the wellness centre. Split gneiss, a dark local stone, was chosen to characterise these spaces. It was used for the floors and walls, creating an itinerary of the senses that is travelled in semidarkness, an enveloping uterine cloak that represents the realm of harmony and interior well-being.
The spa is a system of rooms laid out sequentially and it includes a relaxation area offering aromatherapy and colour therapy treatments, a sauna, a Turkish bath, jet showers that alternate hot and cold water, aromatic showers, a path over river stones for plantar massages and an ice machine: it is like a natural grotto with plays of water that, in its different states – from ice to steam – spews from the rock through metal elements. The composition is thus evocative, dynamic and harmonious and, in keeping with the dictates of feng shui, it transposes the natural processes of the construction of the world into an artificial spatial milieu intended to regenerate vital energy.
This space of spiritual and physical meditation is one where sensory suggestion is expressed with sublime eloquence. In the middle of the composition, the swimming pool lined in black plastic is the visual filter between the wellness centre with which it shares the entryway – a glassed-in hall floored in gneiss with an entrance formed by an invisible wall of hot air coming from the ceiling – and the fitness area, from which it is separated by two plain glass walls. The suggestive lighting effects on the stone walls, which conceal the air vents, are created by dimmable dichroic spotlights hidden in a slash in the ceiling. The movement of water, piped through special channels formed by slits along the floor, evokes the intrauterine sound of amniotic fluid that nourishes and protects us, in an unspoiled and timeless dimension. In terms of the gym, innovation of form mainly involves its division into specific functional areas, with the inclusion of elements that traditionally have no place in fitness centres, such as the Internet point and meeting point.
The entire project was studied in every detail, in order to create a hypersensory place that would astonish, enthral and indulge both body and spirit, leaving all physicality behind to help us rediscover the ancestral rhythm of our pure, untainted being in this place outside space and time.
Italian Contribution to the project
Simone Micheli Architectural Hero
Via Aretina 197r 199r 201r - 50136 Firenze (FI)
Hotels, Public Spaces, Spa