Photo by Eric Laignel
Posted on October 28, 2013 · Posted in Spa Design

In my previous Spa Design blog I wrote about Nizuc Resort and Spa in Mexico. That project was new build on a pristine site. Newly launched ESPA at the Joule, which I worked on concurrently, involved a completely different process.

The Joule Hotel is located on Main Street in downtown Dallas. The entire area is undergoing revitalization with the addition of new restaurants, nightclubs and loft conversions. The Joule is at the heart of all this activity and ownership purchased the building next door in order to add a tower of luxury hotel suites, a second ballroom and new food and beverage concepts. They also wanted to carve a spa out of the underground space available by linking the basements of the two adjoining buildings.

My concept for the spa was to tie in the glamour associated with Dallas and the Joule’s existing energy theme into a subterranean spa combining the natural molten energy energy of the earth – heat, steam and hot pools and what it produces – crystals, metals and “volcanic” glass. Tihany Design ran with this theme to create a very dramatic and moody spa experience.

Guests arrive at the spa above ground in a light and airy spaciousness. Ceilings are high and daylight enters through the storefront window. The design is minimalistic: large format stone walls, wood plank flooring, glass shelving, no patterns to the upholstery of the contemporary furniture. The guest then descends a wide staircase into an opaque glass enclosed vestibule. The colors are subdued and low-level indirect lighting makes the surfaces shimmer. As guests move deeper into the spa, colors continue to get darker, ceilings lower, lighting more subtle and elements of metal and crystal begin to play into the design. At the very heart of the spa is the underground hot pool. The floor and walls are black stone and the stainless steel pool glows as steam rises from it, partially obscuring the molten metallic sculptural backdrop. it is a dramatic space.

The finished 8,000 square foot spa has an ease and logic in the flow from one area to another but it was not easy to create. In addition to the usual pre-existing structural columns and building services one might encounter in a basement, the two building floor levels did not line up so circulation involved ramping that had to meet ADA requirements. One basement had been a bank vault and the walls were very thick. Because of this there were only two locations we could break through to connect the two buildings. Some areas had low ceilings, pre-determining what could be considered “front of house” spaces. Low ceiling heights also meant no spa services could run through the ceilings, reducing already limited useable square footage by 2’ along the periphery to allow for mechanical ducting through walls. This also affected options for lighting the spa. Add to this mix water table levels, fire exiting requirements and vertical connections to the street level spa reception and you have a complicated space-planning exercise. These are my favorite kind and, with supportive ownership, the collaborative project team really pulled together to make what initially seemed impossible into not only possible, but exceptional.

Project Team
Architects: Forrest Perkins
Interiors: Tihany Design
Heat Experiences: Bradford Products
Lighting Consultants: Lang Lighting Design Inc.
ESPA Consultant: Laura Boss

Spa Details:
Nail Studio
6 treatment rooms (one double)
Luxurious changing rooms
Separate sex steam rooms, saunas, ice fountains, experience showers
Unisex hot pool and relaxation
Separate sex relaxation lounges

Photo by Eric Laignel

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About the Author

Laura Boss is the founder of Twig, an independent spa consultancy engaged in the concept and creation of spas at the luxury end of the international residential, hotel and resort market.