Opening as part of the 2016 London Design Festival, 'Soak, Steam, Dream' is an immersive exhibition at Roca London Gallery that will explore a new communal bathing culture through the work of contemporary architects and designers.
Featuring international bathhouse projects by Peter Zumthor, Shigeru Ban, Skene Catling de la Peña, H3T architekti and Kengo Kuma, the bathhouse will be reimagined as a social space, factoring in smart water use for the 21st century.
"There has been an extraordinarily rich architecture and culture associated with communal bathing since ancient times," explains curator, Jane Withers. "With the arrival of the private bathroom and a more clinical approach to sanitation and wellbeing, we have lost this leisurely sense of the bathhouse as a place not just for wellbeing and relaxation but also as a place for social exchange and community life.
"Gone too is the sensorial dimension of an architecture of stillness and reflection, designed to be seen floating or through a veil of steam. Soak, Steam, Dream aims to reveal a new emerging bathing culture."
Through photography, film and archive objects, the exhibition reflects how this rich panroama is being re-created in a new bathhouse culture that is helping us, in an increasingly water stressed era, to revalue and reconnect to water, and to use it more responsively and responsibly.
'Soak' traces the tradition of bathing in hot springs and taking the waters from the Greek and Roman Baths to the Japanese onsen and European spa towns, spa being the acronym for 'salus per aqua', or healing through water. Featured projects will include Peter Zumthor's magnificent public baths for Vals, as well as a series of baths that blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings, from Germán del Sol Termas Geometricas in the national park in Chile, to Kengo Kuma's Japanese zen onsen overlooking the sea.
The 'Steam' section of the exhibition reveals a variety of approaches to the sauna: from the gritty Gothenburg Public Sauna by Berlin-based Raumlabor, made from recycled materials and conceived as a catalyst to transform the former industrial port into a new urban neighbourhood; to the surreal mobile pop-up saunas by Czech architects, H3T, that have been suspended from a bridge or placed in the middle of a lake.
The final section, 'Dream', references great bathing traditions, such as Sinan's Ottoman hammams and new bathhouse architecture. Included is the bathhouse designed by Skene Catling de la Peña for a private house inspired by 'Le Petite Maison - an Architectural Seduction', the 18th century architectural treatise and erotic novella by Jean-Francois de Bastide; and the Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son, intended to revive teh tradition of the bathhouse as a community space which still existed in the poorer districts of London up until the 1970s.
Address: Roca London Gallery, Station Court, Townmead Road, London, SW6 2PY
Mondays to Fridays: 9am-5.30pm; Saturdays 11am-5pm (Open until 8pm on the last Tuesday of every month.