Design Excellence Awards

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Student Commercial Design Excellence Award
Presented to Janet Chen
Hotel Van Zandt
Austin, Texas

Project Description:

The spa occupies the top two floors of the Van Zandt, a 16 story boutique hotel located in the center of Austin, Texas.

The unique experience that water provides is the sense of floating and feeling that a weight has been taken off one’s shoulders.

The three components in this spa – the suspended Corian, the floating paths, and the water – work together to provide a buoyant sensation, and thus a weightless sense of relaxation for the guests.

The spa’s layout resembles an archipelago; the main programs are situated on different rooms/islands, connected by elevated paths or bridges. The floor plan is flooded with a layer of water that varies in height, from a shallow and decorative layer, to 4 feet deep pools.

This initial exercise was used to explore issues of serial variation and digitally derived patterning for a system of Corian bands. Twisting the bands allowed for natural openings to occur, which created an attractive visual effect suitable for partitions and screen applications. A smaller scale of the twists on selected shower areas provided a surface texture aimed at engaging the sense of touch as well as enhancing the way water would flow down these surfaces. Finally, the ceiling height was manipulated to respond to different degrees of privacy and intimacy across the space.

The layout was inspired by the Hammam, or the Islamic variant of the Roman bath. The thresholds between treatment rooms play a key role in the transition across the bathing sequence. Similarly, the different treatment stations in “float suspend” are connected through linear platforms raised off the ground, above a layer of water.

Corian is particularly suitable for an environment with water since it does not harbor bacteria, making it a hygienic surface. In addition, the translucent quality of Corian engages light creating very unique illumination effects. The solidity of concrete complements Corian well and is another material that performs well in wet conditions.

Located on the top two floors of the hotel, the spa uses rainwater collected on the rooftop as part of the water system. Filtered water within the spa circulates, and the flow creates a gentle murmuring of water throughout the space.

The design takes into consideration different levels of accessibility guests may have. Ramps are utilized to allow each individual to experience the sense of elevation and floating above water. The double sided elevator enables access to the treatment rooms on level 16.