We believe in the Timeless Truths of Spa. These fundamentals of spa are: Quiet; Food; Community; Sleep; Fitness; Nature, and Water. We asked Clodagh, a serious force in the design world who passionately believes that good design can support well-being, to explain why we should care, and what you should look for in your spa experience.
To enter a spa from the relentless sound track of the streets is a transition to another world where one expects to find peace and quiet: a secular sanctuary. Quiet does not mean silence. Silence is encroaching and almost sinister. Quiet is not the absence of sound, it can be achieved through removing unwanted noise by the creation of sound blocks with insulation and resilient surfaces and then adding in layers of pleasant sound to striate the air. The sound of water and quiet harmonious background music are effective.
In many of the world’s culture, water is used for cleansing and initiatory rites. Our bodies are 72 percent water and we spend the first nine months of our lives surrounded with it. It is also our ancestral element. The physical presence of water or even just the sound of it gives us a feeling of well-being. The juxtaposition of fire and water draws on our ancestral memory. The making of Fire is what made us distinct from the rest of the natural world. Wherever possible in my spa designs, I introduce a fire element, even if it’s only a gas fire. Because fire resonates comfortingly in our deepest reptilian brains, banishing the enveloping darkness.
City dwellers live largely divorced from nature. Our parks serve as token reminders of what we have lost. The spa experience should restore our feeling of harmony with nature ideally in a setting within nature, but if that is not possible through strong representations of nature in the design. Natural materials, window boxes of lavender and other scented herbs, large cleansing crystals, the giant gems that nature gifts us all serve to bring the outside in. A tiny patio full of exuberant plants or a waterfall will tap into the nostalgia of the senses.
A responsible spa does not simply pamper, it also encourages a holistic approach to body care and inspires and teaches the guest to properly maintain the astounding machine that is their body. If a gym is attached to the spa, separate entrances are important as the energy and of spa is totally different to the energy of exercise. In an ideal world every spa would be linked to a fitness center because the two experiences, although different, mutually reinforce each other.
The physical space of a spa can encourage a sense of community. If there is a spa café, a communal table will provide the opportunity for social interaction without pressure . At first one’s connections to the spa experience is a fragile one, so it is important to give it social reinforcement where a lifelong spa-goer can provide validation to neophite. It is important for spas to give back to the underprivileged, support cancer and heart-attack victims, and to offer sessions to veterans and even to their own staff. There is a general perception that spas are only for the lucky few who can afford them; it is important to attempt to dispel this notion through an outreach program.
The expression “garbage in, garbage out” does not just apply to computers. If we pollute our bodies with toxic foods crammed with additives they will promptly take their revenge on us. If a spa serves food and snacks they should be of such kind and nature as to reinforce the overall message of physical and spiritual wellness. Cooking classes and food purchasing classes are a useful tool for bringing in community and local farmers.
Sleep deprivation is perhaps the most prevalent ailment in our stressed-out society. The spa experience should introduce us to restorative nights by introducing short bursts of quality sleep. Between treatments, the spa should provide a relaxation room with a tacit invitation to doze.