Bathhouse’s were a common sight across the UK up until the 1970’s when they were slowly taken out of use due to bathrooms becoming a standard feature in houses and the break up of unions who would use them. Barking, an area in London, had a bathhouse up until the 1980’s which was used by local people for bathing but also meetings and other events were they would board over the baths to make into a large space. These bathhouse’s were low cost, communal spaces that brought people together. Like bathhouses spa’s in other countries such as Finland, Austria, Germany and Onsen in Japan are considered an everyday experience – new developments in Finland, for instance, have sauna’s fitted in every apartment. In the UK spa’s are considered a luxury that you treat yourself to once in a while, where you are pampered and preened. The Barking Bathhouse is in response to these issues, it combines the communal nature of the old bathhouse’s and a back basics eco-industrial aesthetic – a simple design using simple materials which is a factor in the projects rock bottom entry prices.
To realise the work we created purpose designed architecture, interiors, spa experiences, a specialist team of beauty therapists, an economic plan and became licensed spa holders to be able to achieve the project and allow it to be a legitimate public spa. The architecture consisted of 12 black ‘warehouse’ timber structures based around a central long corridor – an overgrown relaxation room, gravel bay beach, wood fired sauna, industrial freezer unit, treatment rooms and bar.
The project was chosen as one of the Gift of the Games as part of the legacy of the games. Press included an article in the New York Times by Alice Rawsthorn: read it here