English design studio Loop.pH, run by Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl, wanted to recreate the lost social spaces once provided by the communal bathhouse. Imagining a future society where serious water shortages are a reality, the studio replaced full immersion with a light, scented water-mist.
For these reasons, Loop.pH has designed an inflatable plastic dome, by London's River Thames, that will be pumped full of scented vapour to create a gathering space intended to replicate the atmosphere of a traditional bathhouse.
The studio cites the social aspects of the traditional teahouse and bathhouse, as well as American architect and theorist Buckminster Fuller's investigations into how future societies might deal with water shortages, as influences for the project.
Named the Horticultural Spa & Apothecary Experience, the installation consists of an inflatable PVC membrane, ballasted with two tonnes of steel scaffolding. Potted plants are set into the pockets of a latticed birch plywood arch that forms the entrance to the structure.
One of the technologies the studio worked with was aeroponics, a soilless method of cultivating plants where the roots are misted with nutrients inside an inflatable PVC membrane.
A slit in the plastic skin allows visitors to slip into the misty interior, where scented vapour produced by adding essential oils and plant extracts to water is pumped into the bubble-like dome.
The installation occupied a spot on the Thames River Path in Nine Elms, a fast-developing area of London by Battersea Power Station. It has been created for the London Architecture Festival – a month-long festival of temporary exhibitions, installations and events that takes place across the capital each June.
Architects: Loop.pH, London – UK
Location: London, UK
Technical info: PVC membrane
Picture credits: Loop.pH