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Most things have a natural cycle – and spas seem to be no different. What was once a Roman, and then predominantly Georgian experience, the natural thermal spas are making a come back – but it’s ‘Luxe’ this time.

The Roman Experience, Bath Spa

The Roman Experience, Bath Spa

The heritage of thermal waters is long, and has culminated in the U.K. many Spa Heritage Towns. The announcement this month that Woodhall Spa will re-engage with its spa heritage in the redevelopment of its derelict Edwardian spa, I have come to conclude there is a trend for the destination heritage spa experience. (Click here for the news article).

Natural thermal waters don’t relocate and to attract visitors in today’s competitive leisure market a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ is needed. Perhaps this is where the unique ’boutique’ of heritage architecture comes into its own.

A destination spa has become the business model du jour, natural thermal waters alone are not enough. A luxury hotel, dining experience, and ideally space for conference facilities are typically part of a scheme when developing such a spa. The spa itself may have waters at different temperatures, a range of sauna types, treatment facilities and fitness equipment. These are fantastic, unique, and complex schemes to bring to fruition, throw in a listed building and it’s right up my street. At EPR I have in fact been fortunate enough to work on The Gainsborough Hotel in Bath Spa.  The 5 star spa hotel scheme incorporates the re-use and restoration of Grade II listed Georgian and Victorian construction with new-build. It is due to open Spring 2015 and will be the first spa hotel with natural thermal waters to open in the UK for over 100 years.

The Gainsborough Hotel - image via EPR Architects

The Gainsborough Hotel – image via EPR Architects

The Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa Development is another destination spa project in the pipeline. It poses the challenge of re-using a Georgian Grade I listed building designed by John Carr. The High Peak Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council recognised its unique asset of natural thermal waters could restate Buxton’s position as a national tourist destination. As joint owners they sought partners with which to develop this project and The Trevor Osbourne Property Group and CP Holdings Limited have stepped up to the plate.

The scheme includes the re-develop of the crescent as a 5 star hotel, with the Grade II Pump Room and Natural Baths incorporated to provide a thermal spa experience, shops and a cafe. Given the heavy servicing of spas, hotels and eating facilities the scheme will indeed need careful designing. The scheme is awaiting confirmation of funding – updates on Facebook can be accessed here and its newsletter Crescent Times, can be accessed here.

Image of Buxton Crescent via Facebook

Image of Buxton Crescent via Facebook

Further Reading:

  • The website for The Gainsborough, Bath Spa – click here.
  • Buxton Crescent via Wikipedia – this includes useful references and a brief history – click here.
  • New publication September 2014: ‘Architecture of Wellbeing’, by Carles Broto – a compilation of outstanding contemporary spa design. For a summary via the RIBA Bookshop, click here.
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