In this recent project by Richard Bell Architecture, as beautifully photographed by Hélène Binet, the light is celebrated and the darkness indulged. A huge volume is illuminated from one end and enclosed by ten thousand handmade bricks, each bearing the thumbprint of its maker. As the light tracks over the rough-hewn surface of the bricks it picks out a shifting landscape of ridges and valleys in miniature. This coarse textured brick is in striking contrast to the glass-like blackness of the pools. The expansive stillness of the water’s surface reflects the space and gives a doubling effect to the volume.
This spa and wellness area is an extension to a house in central London. The site offered little above ground space as the openness of the gardens was important to maintain. It is for this reason that a large subterranean volume was created. The volume incorporates pools, a sauna, a steam room, a gym, deluge showers and changing rooms.
The grey of the bricks is complemented by the visual warmth of an open boarded cherry wood ceiling that conceals a multitude of services and the substantial structure that holds up the gardens above in one uninterrupted span.
There is playfulness in the architecture too. A water station is fed from a four-meter long spout that hangs from the ceiling and elongated towel hooks punctuate the brickwork, appearing as discreet dots made evident by their long shadows. The raking light, the shadowy spaces, the reflections and the materiality combine in this spa to create a space with a quiet intensity and a gentle drama.