Hepburn Bath House and Spa, Victoria Building Redevelopment, Health Building Modernisation, Architecture Images
Hepburn Bath House and Spa in Victoria
Health and Pool Facility Restoration in Australia – design by Cox Architecture
20 Oct 2019
Hepburn Bath House and Spa
Architects: Cox Architecture
Location: Mineral Springs Reserve Road, Hepburn Springs VIC 3461, Australia
The redevelopment of Hepburn Bath House and Spa celebrates its prominence as an iconic local landmark and the continual use of the site as a therapeutic mineral spa centre, ensuring its viability and quality evolution into the future.
The new northern pavilion is a striking single-storey structure containing the main public bathing pools as well as change facilities at creek level and reception above. A bridge link from the car park provides entry to the building at mezzanine level within a long skillion roof and predominantly glazed walls that ensure a contextual intimacy. Grass-roofed with distinctive protruding skylight elements, the building nestles gently into the surrounding creek gully.
The concept for both interior and exterior design was equal and identical. The design team consciously approached the facility as a whole, rather than an envelope and interior. Materials and detailing from the exterior carry through to sculpt interior spaces, producing a seamless approach and expression. Cast concrete, exposed aggregate and split face brick are reflective of the context within which the bathhouse exists, while a series of internal pools are presented vessels or voids carved from the rock escarpment on which the facility is sited.
The redeveloped southern wing is connected via a glazed low-level link, creating a clear distinction between the contemporary architecture to the north and the heritage components that have been extensively refurbished, restoring the grandeur of the central pavilion and maintaining a link to past traditions.
Consistent with the integration of exterior and interior is the deliberate avoidance of applied finishes. Materials are raw and honest, selected to patina with age and usage. The structural timber is recycled and re-sawn, bearing marks and irregularities that celebrate its past use.
Once in the main pool hall the experience continues to unfold around corners and through grottos offering a circuit of experiences. There is a clear separation between activities with materials and detailing used to clearly define function as well as delineating the heritage fabric and the contemporary elements unambiguously.
Fundamental to the function of the Bathhouse is its precious mineral water. The goal of using no more than the previous facility while greatly increasing the capacity of the pools was achieved by redistributing the way the water is used, adopting filters to reduce losses and reducing stress on the aquifer by spreading demand and reducing usage.
The uniqueness of the facility and its environment present a number of challenges to a sustainable design solution. Fundamental to the function of the Bathhouse is the mineral water. The management of this precious resource was a key objective of the design team. The goal was to use no more mineral water than the previous facility while greatly increasing the capacity of the water bodies. This has been achieved by re distributing the way the mineral water is used, adopting filters which reduce back wash losses and reducing stress on the aquifer by spreading the demand and reducing peak usage. Rain water is also harvested and used for toilet flushing and irrigation offsetting the demand for town water.
The activities that occur at the bathhouse present environmental requirements that typically would require extremely high energy usage. Through implementation of double glazing, insulation, heat exchangers, natural ventilation and other design initiatives the energy requirements of operations have been greatly reduced. Local Materials with low embodied energy from sustainable sources and crafted by local trades people have been used wherever possible.
The lifecycle of the previous works was in the order of only 15 years. The new facility has been designed from the ground up with consideration for longevity. Under the pool deck is a service plenum which supplies warm air up the inclined glazed walls. This plenum does away with the need for exposed duct work and greatly reduces condensation on the glazing an important aspect in creating the clear open space of the pool hall. The plenum also permits access to the pool hydraulics which are susceptible to blockage from the build up of mineral salts in the water.
The southern wings have been adapted and reused into the bath house complex in a complimentary and integral manner that saved both resources and energy.
The interior spaces have been designed to exploit day lighting as far as possible while avoiding glare and solar heat gain.
The aspirations of the client and the design team for the building far exceeded the available budget. A design approach was required that used economical robust materials in an engaging and expressive manner. Concrete, split faced block, recycled timber and an exposed aggregate floor constitute the cost effective core of the building in which small areas of crafted detail highlight unique spaces.
Central to the interior design consideration was the long term durability of the facility. The life cycle of the structure is fundamental to the cost effectiveness of the development. A minimum of applied finishes and selection of materials for their ability to withstand the corrosive mineral water environment should result in a facility that ages gracefully and lasts.
The uniqueness of the project meant that items that may not typically be cost effective were able to be considered. The number of private baths required created an economy of scale where it was more economical to cast bespoke items from concrete than to source manufactured items. Likewise the maintenance requirements of the tapware for the baths made it more economical to fabricate unique assemblies than to modify available items. The cast aluminum bronze column bases in the pool hall also yielded an unexpected economy. The requirement for corrosion resistance and the complex shape meant it would have been more expensive to fabricate the item from plate steel. The result is both sculptural and functional.
The reuse of existing building fabric and services also contributed to the cost effectiveness of the design.
The materials selected are integral to the expression of the core design concept: the mineral water emerging from rock.
The nature of the bath house environment, a potentially corrosive atmosphere and high humidity levels has driven a response which is both robust and integral to the buildings narrative and core design concept.
The concrete and split faced block form reflects the rock from which the mineral water flows. All other function is addressed lightly above this datum with glass, steel and timber. In the corrosive mineral water environment it is inevitable that surfaces will stain and patina over time. The rawness and simplicity of the chosen palette should bear this patina well.
Recycled Iron bark has been utilised for the primary columns, outriggers and window framing. The recycled and re-sawn ironbark was sourced from a recently demolished 100 year old pier in Darling Harbour, Sydney. The stability and durability of the timber makes it ideal for this application. The column assembly is both functional and sculptural. The crafted cast aluminum bronze feet celebrate the uniqueness of the materials used and respond to the often intimate relationship bathers have to what are typically structural elements.
Iron bark flooring is used as thematic link between areas in the new northern wing and the refurbished southern wings. The floorboards are not contained to the floor alone but flow up walls across ceilings and create recessed seats and benches.
Cast glass panels enclosing the reception area allow glimpses through to the pool hall whilst still affording a high level of personal privacy.
The use materials and detailing is used to clearly define the separation between old and new work. Both at a macro and detailed level the delineation between the heritage fabric and the new elements is apparent and unambiguous.
Hepburn Bath House and Spa, Victoria – Building Information
Architect: Cox Architecture
Project size: 2000 sqm
Project Budget: $9600000
Completion date: 2007
The project has won the following awards:
Best Spa/Health Retreat Runner-up, GT Travel Awards, Readers’ Choice 2009
State Award for Public Architecture (Alterations and Additions), AIA VIC 2009
Public Interior Design Commendation, Interior Design Awards 2009
Shortlisted in Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller Innovation & Design Awards 2009
Best Use of Timber Flooring, Australian Timber Design Awards 2008
Photography: Derek Swalwell
Hepburn Bath House and Spa in Victoria images / information received 211119
Address: Mineral Springs Reserve Road, Hepburn Springs VIC 3461, Australia
Phone: +61 3 5321 6000
Location: Victoria, Australia
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