The Gainsborough Bath Spa – a first in hotel spa design

Ancient tradition and contemporary luxury combine to create a unique hotel thermal spa experience

From the original thermal baths of Roman times to Georgian society’s ‘taking the waters’, the city of Bath has long been associated with the restorative powers of its natural springs. Drawing on this rich heritage, the new Gainsborough Bath Spa, situated above the remains of ancient Roman Baths, is the first UK hotel to offer a natural thermal spa.

In 2006 EPR was selected to convert a disused block in the heart of the historic city of Bath into a 99-bedroom five-star luxury spa hotel. As project architect, Claire Truman explains, “The listed nature of the building and its location in the world heritage site offered a distinctive starting point and inspiration for its re-use as a spa hotel – it was an opportunity to create something genuinely unique.”

Developing a site with such a rich history brought its own challenges to the project, not least the fact that excavation work was severely restricted by the remains of Roman Baths beneath. This demanded an innovative design solution for the sub-structure, particularly to the lifts and pool area, the latter of which stands directly above an original Roman mosaic. In homage to this, a replica mosaic was commissioned which now forms a stunning focal point in the hotel spa.

Further inspired by the site’s Roman legacy, the spa is centred around a two-storey glass atrium which encloses the pool to create an internal courtyard filled with natural daylight. The spa facilities include eleven treatment rooms, saunas, a steam room, ice chamber, fitness centre, and – uniquely – a series of natural thermal water pools, each set at a slightly different temperature to enable a genuine Roman bathing experience.

The hotel itself is the product of a complex conversion from five Grade II listed buildings, including renowned nineteenth-century architect John Pinch’s United Hospital building, until recently the home of Bath’s Technical College. Unifying the different buildings, each with their own levels, and converting them within the planning height constraints demanded a creative solution in order to deliver the desired number of bedrooms and associated facilities. As well as the conversion, EPR also designed a portion of new build which served both to link the buildings together – including an underground link to the 14-bedroom hotel annexe – and to rejuvenate the perimeter. The external design was further enhanced through new stepped terraces to Bilbury Lane, publically accessible roofs and a sympathetic external lighting scheme whereby the feature lighting is limited to the hotel’s key architectural elements.

Internally, and working in collaboration with New York interior designers Champalimaud Design, EPR conceived a series of varied and sophisticated spaces, both for the public areas and the bespoke guestrooms. Alongside the spa, the development comprises 99 custom-finished guestrooms and suites (three of which are the only guest rooms in the UK to offer guests in-bathroom access to the thermal waters), restaurant, private dining room, lounge and banqueting facilities.

Open on 1 July 2015, this much awaited luxury hotel and spa is set to become a leisure destination of choice.

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