© dirk weiblen

Embodied Energy: The Architecture of Hot Springs

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

Architecture emerges from place. Drawing inspiration from a site’s qualities and character, critically designed buildings clarify place by revealing its inherent logic. These projects could not exist anywhere else, and by their existence form a new contextual order. Hot spring resorts and spas illustrate this spatial idea. Made with careful site considerations, these spaces connect to natural water flows and existing thermal springs. Sensual experiences are then organized around these conditions. While they may house complex programs and infrastructure, modern hot spring facilities center around elevated environmental perception.

Drawing together hot springs designs across five continents, we’ve rounded up a collection that examines experiences derived from the landscape. Utilizing natural materials, artful detailing and poetic sequences, the designs explore layered enclosures and intimate scales. Built as tranquil and serene resorts, the projects establish novel approaches to light, space and form. Collectively, they represent an architecture that seeks to heighten awareness and celebrate a sense of place.

© Dirk Weiblen

© Dirk Weiblen

© Dirk Weiblen

© Dirk Weiblen

© dirk weiblen

© dirk weiblen

Fushengyu Hotspring Resort by AIM ARCHITECTURE, Sichuan, China

Taking inspiration from its immediate surroundings, this hot springs project was built atop Luo Fu Shan. Utilizing natural building finishes, the design was made as a luxury environment that draws connections to nature.

Gross Barmen Resort by Wasserfall Munting Architects Inc, Okahandja, Namibia

Located in Otjikango, the Gross Barmen project draws inspiration from a richly layered site and its history, including distinct topographical features and man-made interventions. Developed as a recreational Hot Spring Resort in 1976, this new project focused on an overlay of axes that connect Rhenish ruins while embodying the local collective memory.

Sheraton Huazhou Hot Spring Resort by MAD, Huzhou, China

MAD’s design for the Sheraton Moon Hotel draws inspiration from the Nan Tai Lake in Huzhou. Integrated into the landscape, the project aimed to echo the natural surroundings through reflections and a circular building that symbolizes connections between humanity and nature.

Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel by Minarc, Selfoss, Iceland

This adventure hotel was created for visitors coming to experience the island “where fire meets ice.” The structure rests on the slopes of Mt. Hengill, a scenic destination near Thingvellir National park. Ion is also surrounded by hot springs which provide geothermal water and energy.

Yomogino Ryokan Hot Spaby Ryuichi Sasaki / Sasaki Architecture, Fukushima, Japan

The Yomogino Ryokan Spa was oriented to Yomogi Mountain and builds upon the plan of a ryokan (Japanese-style inn). Allowing guests to experience the changing seasons, the project was conceptually inspired by the mountain and detached buildings as a vessel that frames and focuses.

Liard River Hotsprings Facility by FORMLINE Architecture + Urbanism, Victoria, Canada

Located within a boreal forest, the Liard River project was raised above a muskeg marsh and a natural mineral pool. Taking inspiration from local Dene culture and lean-to construction, the design features a quarter-mile cedar boardwalk, a red balau deck and turned bi-pod Douglas fir columns.

Qiqihaer Hezhitang Hot Spring by A-ASTERISK / 阿司拓设计, Qiqiha’er, China

Formed as a gabled hot spring for a three-part complex, Qiqihaer Hezhitang submerges into the landscape with spa rooms, aquatic clubs and a five-star hotel. Each programmatic area is housed within rectangular volumes oriented to the nearby wetlands to frame the surrounding scenery.

Termas Geométricasby Germán del Sol, Panguipulli, Los Ríos, Chile

Located within the Villarica National Park next to the Aihué stream, the Termas Geométricas Springs was designed around a natural ravine that’s experienced through a winding wooden footbridge. Surrounded by 60 springs of pure thermal water, the project includes multiple carved pools and wells connected by red paths and ramps.

Hürlimann Brewery/B2 Hotel by Althammer-Hochuli, Zürich, Switzerland

The renovation of the Hürlimann Brewery in Zürich combined multiple programs, from a hotel and offices to a thermal spa. A modern rooftop pool allows guests to enjoy views out onto the city, while a former barrel filling area was converted into a subterranean bathing facility with barrel-like tubs and an Irish-Roman Circuit fed by water from “Aqui” springs.