Bade Fjorden

2014
Comprehensive Design Studio

University Of Waterloo
A concealed, cinematic spa in the Nordic Hills

‘Bade Fjorden’, the Bathing Fjord, is a spa set in an alternate world. Hidden away from the bustling outside world, Bade Fjorden has little frontage, buried deep underground. The earth is stable and solid. The spa is insular, concealed with a series of walled gardens, guarding it from external elements. Tucked behind a humbling threshold, it sparks the inception of a journey. Every space is a scene of a grand film, leading towards the expansive plunge pool, which plunges itself into the vast, open landscape of Voss. A hidden gem at first, the spa reveals itself as a multifaceted experience, which makes way for an enchanting and dramatic experience.

Set in the sleepy mountain town of Vossevangen, Bade Fjorden is a deep carve into the hilly landscape. Intended for both lodgers and backpackers, the parted spa opens deep into the hill whilst thrusting itself into the landscape. An intensive green roof conceals the already lowered height of Bade Fjorden, allowing the facility to stay unobtrusive to its surroundings.

The spa is organised as a filmstrip, intended for entry along one end and progressing through the other. Choreography dictates the experience of the upper and lower levels of the spa. The intent is to intensify the exaltation brought forth by the unobstructed view of the Voss landscape.

Upon arrival to Bade Fjorden, visitors peel downward into a private landing. To one side is the wide, downward stairway to the spa below; the other is a nondescript entry leading to an enclosed entryway toward the lodging itself.

Through the covered entryway one passes through a concentrated threshold to an enclosed garden, spiralling through a grove of trees toward the baths.

Passing through a dark tunnel, visitors confront a concealed doorway. This is the front door to the spa. Through its formal entry, a small and comforting reception area greet them. An attendant signs them into the lodge, and they proceed toward the communal hall.

To the left of the reception is the communal hall, split into three main areas: the shared kitchen, an outdoor court, and a lifted lounge area. The space blurs the line of the enclosed court and its interior counterparts, encouraging visitors to utilise the hall as one continuous space.

The lifted lounge is a seating area intended for cozy conversations with the visitors of the spa. Looking outward, the lounge is a shrouded space. The garden’s intent is the outdoor counterpart of the interior hall; mirrored, it boasts a seating area and a dining section, parted with a reflecting pool.

Through a pair of doors, the corridor runs the remaining length of the building. The visitor’s suite is through one of the concealed doors in the facility. Its design is to create a continuous flow from one end of the building to the other, without any interruptions of hardware generated by doorways.

The washrooms of the spa utilise the spiralling flow found in many of its circulation spaces. Down a quick ramp, a series of private stalls lead to an open and lofty bathing area. Looking upward, the showers allow the light of the heavens to penetrate its steamy interior.

Every suite consists of a bed with built-in ledge, a shelving area for luggage, and a concrete vanity extending into an exterior washbasin in the terrace. The intention is to create a portrait of the Voss landscape outside its glass walls, and to encourage visitors to embrace the outdoors as much as possible.

From the approach, the suites are essentially the only portion of the facilities are visible from the outside. Most of the program, including the fjorden and the spa itself hides in the ground. Its concealment deliberately adds intrigue to the program and organisation of the baths.

Toward the end of the corridor, one will reach the staircase leading to the spa located on the lower floor. The staircase shifts from the white, airy corridor to a cavernous lower landing, before slipping through a deep slit into the grand fjord beyond.

Toward the spa, one will encounter the main lobby for the spa facility. Located in the centre of the design, the deep-set niches lead to varying programs along the length of this deep carves into the landscape.

Within these ardent cuts, the treatment rooms await visitors’ arrival. A seductively lit vestibule sits quietly before the cavernous treatment room, where a range of water treatments and massages await to serve visitors.

Bade Fjorden also contains facilities for dance rooms and movement studios; the tall, lofted ceilings allow for versatile and flexible programming. These open spaces are large and private. A varying degree of exercises can be accommodated within in these halls, with activities ranging from dance, yoga, lyra, hoop, pole dance, and aerial silks to name a few.

After treatment, visitors may decide to visit the saunas and plunge pools provided by the spa. In order to access them, one must pass through the narrow chasm towards the destination. As one continues on, the tall, rusticated walls begin to recede.

Along the length of the sloping surface, a pair of dry saunas protrudes beyond the rock face. Visitors now take the opportunity to bask in the steam of these saunas before taking a plunge in the cold bath.

As one continues toward the plunge pools, the landscape falls completely away, and the bodies of water lift above the intensely sloped landscape on a high platform. Adjacent to a water-skimmed runway, visitors must submerge into the frigid plunge before taking a rest in the hot tub along the panoramic edge overlooking the breathtaking panorama.

The plunge pools tangent from the spa fjord embedded deep underground to a platform high above the sloping landscape. This intense shift exalts visitors to sublimate the glory of the Norwegian scenery.

Back towards the spa and its other facilities, the treatment spaces and studios contour the designed fjord like an ancient temple. Every cut is deep and entices visitors to peek and enter. The sloping stairs rise toward the grade, leading them to the adjacent campgrounds and entrances beyond.

The scale of Bade Fjorden is large and deliberate; it purposely denies views with its visitors in order to curate cinematic and dramatic scenes within the architecture.

A service apartment on site assists in maintaining the facility. Connected to the main corridor through an open office, the apartment itself is a microcosm of the larger design. It circulates along an interior courtyard, sharing this outside space with both the upstairs and downstairs of the unit.

For visitors who wish to not stay at the suites provided at the Bade Fjorden, a campground is available adjacent to the sloping plunge pool. Campers have full access to all facilities on site, as well as a separate bathing pavilion tucked within the landscape.

The organisation of program in the spa splits from hostel to spa between the upper and lower floors, while vertical corridors divide the communal and private spaces.

Bade Fjorden is a controlled ascetic exercise. Its intent is to elongate the magic of Vossevangen through the denial of views.

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© Dennis Tang 2017