João Varela . Ana Isabel Santos . João Tavares . Paulo Dias . + Bee Breeders
The first place entry for the Blue Clay Country Spa is successful in its reprogramming of a spatial archetype, the hortus conclusus, or walled garden. The primary gesture of the project is a circular promenade that unites each functional space of the spa. The wall circumscribes an interior garden and orchard, enclosing the spa with a colonnade that functions both as wall and social space. This formal armature of the circle allows each room of the spa – sauna, public bath, and guest house – to individually reflect its unique programmatic demands without detracting from the unifying identity of the project. Each space, simply detailed with native woods and exposed structure, fulfills the particular programmatic requirements of water, heat, light, privacy, and views. This circular space of ambulation marks the territory of the spa while still retaining the trace of the clearing in the forest, perpetuating the memory of Baltic vernacular architecture. With an ethos of minimal interference and simplicity, this hortus conclusus pursues a new type of ecotourism, one in which the spatial diagram of the spa enables a new environmental, cultural, and social agency.