Located in the heart of historic Old Montreal and facing the vibrant piers of Old Port, Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montréal is an urban spa whose purpose is to provide a thermal therapy experience that engages each of the body’s senses. The building, rebuilt half a century ago after extensive fire damage, has housed warehouse functions until recently when it was acquired by the new owners: the new spa is positioned at the ground/entrance level.
The formal part of the project is derived from the contact between hot and cold - and more specifically, the naturally occurring phenomena associated with these conditions - the design distills the idea of cool glacial forms and the warmness of volcanic rocks. White angular masses of glacial topography coupled with volcanic geology bespeak the duality that is central to the thermal therapeutic experience proposed by the spa. This duality is articulated through both the spaces’ forms and the selection of various materials.
Upon exiting the dressing room, the visitor is immersed in a unique environment where walls, floors and ceiling are slightly angled according to a notion of interior topography through which visitors may wander. These angles, though subtle, give bathers a perceptual difference from their everyday environs; the awareness of the corporeal relationship with their surroundings is heightened, thus grounding each visitor for that moment in time. Just as in a natural landscape, slight undulations in the ground plane create gentle slopes; depressions in the floor level generate basins of water for bathing. At particular moments, volumes emerge from the ground to sculpt interior zones for the sauna and steam bath. Uniting the main space is an undulating wood ceiling that echoes the movements of the floor: walls of white marble mosaic appear to melt at the point of contact with the warm-colored wood on the ceiling, resulting in accentuated architectural reveals. Heated, cantilevered benches made of black slate offer visitors a warm place to pause in between a hot and cold bathing cycle.
Opalescent glass has been added to admit natural light through the building’s existing openings while providing a sense of privacy for the visitors. The light that permeates the bath area glows, adding to the purity of the space and the feeling of tranquility for the bathers while keeping contact with city life. Along de la Commune Street, a thin cascading layer of water flows on glass surfaces, filtering views so that from the exterior, passersby can see only shadowed silhouettes of the figures within the hot bath. Rounding out the holistic journey is a relaxation room where bathers can relax in rocking chairs or bean-bag lounge chairs.