An Italian practice designs a wellness centre in an ancient crypt in Mâcon.
Mâcon is an elegant town straddling the banks of the Saone and gateway to Burgundy for those arriving from the south of France. Its historic centre is a maze of narrow streets which wind around noble historical and religious buildings. One of these streets, a stone’s throw from Saint Pierre’s Church, was chosen as the perfect location for the new “Atrium – Spa & Beauté” wellness centre.
Built on two levels, Atrium welcomes its guests on the ground floor, in a stylish “New-Baroque” salon. This area is devoted to facial, hand and hair beauty treatment.
The staircase in white, marble effect porcelain stoneware tiles, on the left side of the building, leads down to the basement, the very heart of the spa, where a “magical”, medieval atmosphere provides guests an unexpected mystical feeling.
The owners decided to build the most valuable area of the spa in the basement, despite the technical and construction problems involved.
The basement is in fact characterised by a vaulted roof entirely made of stone.
Aesthetically it recalls an ancient crypt and it is quite plausible to think that it served precisely this function in the past, given the proximity of the church of St. Pierre.
The room height is particularly limited, down to about one meter and twenty centimetres at its lowest point. Given the lack of significant openings, the environment posed major technical difficulties and called for special design solutions for the installation of the necessary air conditioning units; all without ruining such a characteristic setting.
The owners therefore decided to cross national borders and call on Studio Alberto Apostoli, an internationally renowned company specialising in the design of spas and wellness centres. The meeting took place in Paris, during EquipHotel, where Apostoli was present as ambassador for Italy.
To highlight the ”existing” aspect, giving expressive power to the project.
The Concept proposed by Alberto Apostoli immediately met the expectations of the Customer, managing to combine technical and aesthetic requirements, through an intuitive combination of MEP systems and scenic elements. The project features a long curved corridor leading to the wet zone, on one side, and to the treatment rooms, on the other. This corridor was also used to obtain a structure to house all the air ducts and outlet nozzles, hidden behind a backlit curtain. Using a small graphic expedient, the outlets blend into the curtain itself and disappear in the decor reminiscent of the typical vineyards of Mâcon, famous for its Chardonnay. Positioning the nozzles in this way instead of in the ceiling avoided any further reduction in the available height.
The spa area occupies a space of about 270 square meters. The wet area includes a Finnish sauna and a steam bath, almost entirely made of glass. Then we find a hydro massage area with emotional shower and a relaxation area. The treatment area has two single rooms and a double room. A small tea corner completes the environment, provided with a cabinet that seems to float in the air, thanks to underside lighting.
Light and colors
Great attention was given to the lighting design, crucial to solve difficulties related to this particularly narrow area. Lighting is almost totally indirect, obtained using RGB strip LEDs, controlled by a DALI system and positioned along the profile of the vault in order to highlight its curvature.
To balance the weight of the stone facing and make the setting more refined, Alberto Apostoli has worked using black and white, inserting some details in gold.
Materials and equipments
Alberto Apostoli has attempted to privilege Italian products; ceramics, mosaics, paints and even the treatment beds are all “Made in Italy”.
Some items were custom-designed such as the big lamp which incorporates the spa logo, positioned in the relaxation room. All furniture is customised, like the many mirrors and large glass surfaces, necessary to allow the environment to “breathe”.
Refined use is made of an elliptical mosaic which accompanies guests towards the wet zone, merging with some fine porcelain stoneware elements specially designed and highlighted by floor lighting fixtures.
“from the first site inspection I instantly realised the great expressive and design potential of this area but, at the same time, the remarkable complications for plant and structures.
We tried to create emotion through a project that focussed on a simple yet not trivial layout and considerable efforts in terms of lighting, material research and attention to technical detail, typical of our professional profile.
What is especially satisfying in the result is the mix of pre-existing stone and contemporary materials, managed through a thoughtful creative process. The owners trusted us entirely in our thinking and this led to a major achievement from the point of view of consistency in both style and technology. Which goes to show that even in small projects, with due attention and richness, considerable results can be achieved in terms of creativity and well-being”.