VODA SPA, located in West Hollywood along Santa Monica Boulevard represents a modern interpretation of the traditional Russian “bania”. The project grew out of an adaptive reuse exercise in transforming an original Packard car showroom (and in the recent decades a twice-renovated and abandoned mortuary space) into a community-serving spa and meeting house. The new spa program called for a re-centered entry space from which the bathing and cleansing rituals would unfold. The program itself includes a series of five specific types of high heat saunas and steam rooms, relaxation spaces, pools and plunges, lockers, treatment rooms, cosmetology rooms and dining areas.
The exterior walls of the former mortuary space — closed off to the outside world — not only changed the character of the building but also created a challenge with a claustrophobic series of rooms partitioning the interior. Over the course of careful demolition work, the structure’s original entry, pre-dating the mortuary, was uncovered along with the tracings of its original exterior window bays. Because of budget limitations, the original redwood exterior wall and roof framing was salvageable. From a fully gutted interior, existing bowstring trusses above became the point of departure for laying out the new spatial sequences of the spa interior. Overhead day-lighting strategies (skylights, light wells and clerestory windows) were inserted as the primary mode to deliver life into the heart of the Spa’s interior.
The sweeping evolution from a mortuary (a space of mourning and closure) to a spa (a space of invigoration and renewal) literally reshapes the building into its next life. As a key component in the City’s efforts to revitalize its east side redevelopment zone, the Voda Spa is designed to contribute to the boulevard by providing a relaxing, healthy and nurturing experience.