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The harmony and design of wellness in the best spas, according to Dejaco

Wellness, described as the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of a person, is experiencing a real cultural revolution, the result of the historical moment in which we find ourselves. The frenetic increase in the rhythm of our lives leads us to find more and more a tiny moment in time and space, to look for that place where we can devote ourselves to the care of our well-being. This is the environment where we can pull the plug, but mostly where we must regain control of our relationship with nature, with beauty, with our "I"

Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the central themes in the wellness industry is the design of new concepts for the best spas and wellness centres.

Technogym is at the forefront in the discussion of these issues, dedicating its Wellness Village in Cesena and the flagship store in Milan to debates and discussion for the young architects from YAC (Young Architects Competition).

During the days of November 28 and 29, YAC held various lectures with experts from the world of design and architecture in the wellness field, such as that of Ralf Dejaco of Dejaco and Partners, a prominent architects' studio in South Tyrol, a great place - among others - for skiing, hiking and wellness tourism.

Pioneering design for every location
From his class four key points emerged, that should be always observed when designing some of the best spas and wellness centres:

  1. 1. The search for the perfect material
  2. 2. Location, Location, Location
  3. 3. An intimate public environment
  4. 4. Connection between man and nature

1. The search for the perfect material

The search for building, finishing and decoration materials for a design spa has undoubtedly profound repercussions, in practical and aesthetic terms for the structure, in psychological and somatic terms on the spa user. Only the material that can satisfy all these demands at once is the perfect one.

Often, it is not necessary to go very far to find the perfect material.

The use or reinterpretation of local resources in terms of design and well-being is surprisingly an innovation compared to tradition, which favoured luxury materials at the expense of depersonalising the environment or hindering the wellness offering itself.

In the case of Balneum in Vipiteno, the use of local materials is not limited to wood and local stone, but becomes a true wellness protagonist. Balneum’s hay room, for example, is a relaxation room with walls made entirely of local hay, replaced on a weekly basis. In the steam room, on the other hand, the quartz of the Dolomites, strategically placed above the main lights, gives the environment a unique brightness.

hay room, relaxation that smells like home
Often, the choice of material also takes precedence over the design of the building itself. In the case of the Dòlaondes sports and wellness centre in Canazei, the copper dictated the design of the whole centre. This choice was dictated not only by the aesthetics of the structure, but also by the South Tyrolean historical heritage associated with this material, often placed on top of lavish buildings and churches.
Small details matter
However, the hand of the artisan makes a quality material into a unique architectural piece. If it aesthetics is important, the use of (often local) skilled labour, able to transform the qualitatively excellent into the aesthetically flawless, is crucial.

2. Location, Location, Location

This point seeks to address what is the main challenge for any architect, namely the subdivision of a certain amount of rooms based on special needs, against limited size or architectural barriers. This challenge is even more difficult in the design of spas and wellness centres, which have rooms with strict logic, minimal dimensions and obligatory usage of materials.

The key to meet these needs is always dictated by technical pragmatism, aesthetic taste and anthropocentrism.

Therefore, it is necessary to review the old stylistic logics and re-imagine these environments. For example, if traditionally wellness areas have always been located on the ground floor or down the basement, the new choice – thanks to newer, lighter and more insulating materials that allow greater energy savings - is to place them on the upper floors, thus giving them more width, brightness and cleanliness.
The in is out, the out is in
However, the location must also respond to problems of spatial efficiency, acoustics and wellness. Therefore, there must be a clear division between public environments, perhaps even dedicated to families with children, and private environments, where the quiet and silence dominate the scene. In addition, the various stations of the wellness treatment must be logically placed where you want the spa user to arrive. Therefore, the path must be linear, creative and dictated by the benefits associated with the treatment.

Finally, the geographical and naturalistic position of is one of the most important assets for the best spas and wellness. Spectacular views, easy accessibility (or difficult, depending on the exclusivity that you want to attribute to it), as well as the possibility of creating hybrid environments between the inside and outside of the structure are crucial elements in choosing the place where to create an avant-garde wellness environment.

The importance of a breathtaking scenery

3. An intimate public environment

How is it possible to create an intimate place within a public space, without running the risk of creating many tiny private spaces? The answer to this question is unequivocally what elevates the best spas from the rest of the spas.

To overcome this problem, the solution proposed by Dejaco is to create environments that are accessible to everyone - therefore without the possibility of physically isolating one environment from another - but partially decentralized with respect to spaces of greater confluence. For example, the relaxation areas of the Dòlaondes are separated from the main water park and protected on several sides, although accessible to everyone at all times and perfectly visible.

A new way to conceive relax
Deepening the analysis of relaxation areas, the objective for a design spa is to create environments that give the feeling of intimacy - therefore with a careful choice of sound-absorbing materials in spaces dedicated to small groups - and that are placed at a distance that allows freedom of movement to the individual.

4. Connection between man and nature

Finally, a spa that really wants to be considered among the best must let its public rediscover the relationship with nature in all its forms. From the choice of the least processed materials possible - wood and stone should be the cornerstones of every structure devoted to well-being - to the integration of stations with natural essences, scents and sounds in the wellness paths, man must gradually, but constantly, rediscover the atavistic relationship of oneself in nature, which envelops and amazes in all its grandeur.
the relationship between nature and man
To achieve this goal, the architect can make his imagination explode, conceptualizing, even before realizing, scenic views, huge points of light that illuminate the environments, wellness paths with wide moments of naturalistic breath, both in the offer of the treatments and in the mixture of indoor and outdoor locations.
external wellness elements
A classic example of such naturalistic melange is to include Wellness Park, thalassotherapy pools, saunas and outdoor fitness areas. The ultimate goal of this kind of architecture is to obtain a design spa with a narrative that combines the inside with the outside.

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