Otherworldly and ethereal

might be the best way to describe this spa, an addition to a European 19th century country estate. The contemporary spa stands in sharp contrast to the traditionally styled existing residence, melding luxurious materials and finishes—fumed-oak and Black Sicilian Basaltina—with light. The project brief called for the creation of “a series of calming, coherent, and relaxing spaces.” The 5,000-square-foot below-grade space, which includes a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, and a gymnasium, is just that. By carefully positioning lighting elements, Lighting Design International created a unique environment. The London firm had a leg up thanks to the dynamic ceiling—a series of folded planes fabricated from glass-reinforced gypsum (GRG)—that architects Carmody Groarke designed as a sculptural counterpoint to the smooth surfaces of water.

Although underground, the spa is connected to the outside via a skylight, tucked-up out of view at the far end of the pool. The opening provides a wash of natural light during the day, while at night, electric sources cast light across the pool. The size of the pool, which is approximately 57 feet long by 26 feet wide, enabled the lighting designers to make a significant statement: A gap separates the folded ceiling plane from the side walls, and the slot emits a haze of fluid light from two concealed indirect sources—3500K cold cathode by day and color-changing LEDs by night. The light accentuates the upper portion of the wall while defining the angular edges of the GRG ceiling, all without ever having to directly illuminate the ceiling itself. The atmosphere is further enhanced by the reflection of the ceiling and its edge lighting on the water's surface.

Banks of narrow-beam cool-white LEDs light the edge of the pool, enhancing the blue tint of the water. As the light from the luminaires stretches across the pool perimeter, the effect reminds one of a series of searchlights, aiding the swimmer who is navigating the mysterious liquid terrain. The lighting fittings were installed in the overflow channel because the pool cover had already been installed and the pool itself already had been cast prior to the lighting designer's involvement in the project.

The sensuous atmosphere continues in the sauna and steam room, where dark finishes and lighting pulled back to the corners emphasize the room's edges. Louvered downlights complement the vertical light slots and provide a sense of drama. The gym uses both cold cathode and low-wattage halogen sources, which family members can select depending on workout needs. Finally, fiber optic steplights illuminate the Jacuzzi.

In order to create a sleek and sophisticated appearance, the client requested that the luminaires be “invisible,” so the lighting team developed a series of custom detailing solutions. The result is an architecture where light is visible, but not the source. Suggesting the hint of a line which unfolds into a volume, lighting is deftly used in this project of carefully considered strokes.

Jury Comments
Jim Baney: Not your everyday kind of a project. The lighting designers have really explored the interaction between light, material, and reflection.
Denise Fong: The space has a magical quality about it. It appears simple, but it's very complex.
Randy Sabedra: Simple, yet a very intellectual design.


Architect: Carmody Groarke, London 
Lighting Designer: Lighting Design International, London 
Photographer: Christian Richters, Munster, Germany 
Project Size: 5,000 square feet 
Watts Per Square Foot: 2.25

Manufacturers / Applications
ACDC: Pool and Spa cold cathode sources
Cube Lighting: Steam room and sauna downlights
John Cullen Lighting: Shower downlights
Kreon: Gym floor washers
Mike Stone Lighting: Pool uplights and emergency LED lights
Light Graphix: Pool area LED steplight
Lucent Lighting: Spa trimless downlights
Philips Color Kinetics: Pool ceiling color-changing LEDs
Philips: Underwater pool LEDs
Universal Fibre Optics: Jacuzzi lighting