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Healthy hedonism: Sense of Self Bathhouse redefines the wellness experience with an inclusive, immersive and design-led model for self-care.In a converted warehouse in Melbourne’s inner-north the ‘Sense of Self’ bath house comprises of; a large mineral bath, Hammam Steam room, Finnish sauna, light-filled vegetated courtyard and cold plunge pool.

‘Sense of Self’ was an unprecedented opportunity to explore the relationship of the (naked or near-naked) body to space, inviting guests to better connect with themselves and their immediate physical world. Sitting beyond the current definition of ‘wellness’, an idea largely defined by the term ‘beauty’ and translated spatially as a solitary activity within a stark white environment, the brief for SOS was to create an empathetic space that engaged in a new idea of well-being – community, acceptance and restoration. An immersive environment that encourages healing, rest and connection.

Taking the notion of empathy, the design placed an emphasis on the aspirational task of designing for every ‘body’. Eradicating the demarcation of floor plans based on gender or physical ability the design implemented communal change rooms, communal toilets (with only ambulant wc’s) and accessible communal bathing with a variety of entry options. Conceptually the layout centres around the sequence of rituals embedded in the bathing experience. Prioritizing the relationship between body and physical space, using design to guide users through the order to which a bathhouse experience unfolds.

Looking to draw from, rather than replicate, existing bathhouse cultures around the world, the design extrapolates ‘bathhouse’ to its very essence; being that of water. The concept derives materials and form from understanding water as both a movement and a driver for growth, healing and nourishment. Drawing physical materials from concepts such as refraction, still, power, buoyancy and erosion.

Decorative glass and digital projections play with the refraction of light, while the water wall and flowing fabric curtains represent the power of water. Elemental materials such as concrete, travertine and sandstone are cast and carved in such a way that they are encouraged to wear and chip as they would in the natural environment. Vegetation embodies water as restorative.

This design aims to define and cultivate communal bathing in Australia.

Architects: Chamberlain Architects, Hearth Studio, Setsquare Studio
Co Designer: Caitlin Perry, Ella Leoncio, Sarah Trotter
Designers: Setsquare Studio, Hearth Studio
Architects: Chamberlain Architects
Photographs: Martina Gemmola

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