Dezeen Magazine

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

These hand-drawn illustrations by Hackney design studio Something & Son explain the designs for a temporary spa that opens tomorrow in Barking, east London.

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

Above: bar and cucumber plants
Top: relaxation room

The Barking Bathhouse will be open for seven weeks in the heart of Barking's town centre and will feature a series of treatment rooms, a cocktail bar and a makeshift beach made from piles of pebbles.

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

Above: pebble bays

Homegrown cucumbers will spout from a canopy of plants above the bar and will be used to make drinks, as well as for spa treatments.

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

Above: sauna room

One room will provide a wooden sauna, while another will contain a cool room chilled with dry ice.

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

Above: massage room

The structure is being assembled from a series of prefabricated wooden huts and is one of twelve projects taking place this summer as part of arts festival CREATE.

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

Other projects with imaginative illustrations on Dezeen include a tiny theatre and a row of houses for London's east end.

The Barking Bathhouse by Something & Son

Something & Son are based on Dalston Lane in the London Borough of Hackney. Scroll down to see their location on our Designed in Hackney map.

Here's some information from CREATE and Something & Son:

The Barking Bathhouse, Something & Son
27 July – 16 September

CREATE has commissioned Something & Son to design and build The Barking Bathhouse. Focusing on wellbeing, The Barking Bathhouse will experiment in the latest design, health and beauty ideas to help people feel happy and relaxed this summer during perhaps the most hectic period in London’s history. The Bathhouse will open on 24 July in Barking town centre and provide affordable spa treatments as well as a free social space for people to meet. Something & Son are the design practice behind the hugely successful FARM:shop in Dalston which saw the practice create a fully functioning farm within a disused shop. This new project is one of the Mayor’s Outer London Fund projects being delivered for Barking and Dagenham Council.

The Barking Bathhouse will combine a spa with a bar, where visitors will be able to sip healthy cocktails under a canopy of growing cucumbers and sunbathe in seaside-inspired pebble bays. After soaking up vitamins and being pampered with a variety of treatments – using produce grown by local allotment gardeners - visitors will be able to sweat it out or cool down in a traditional wooden sauna or a cold room with a pioneering ‘dry ice’ chiller. The purpose-built design of the Bathhouse is inspired by 20th century working men's bathhouses, ultra modern spas and Barking’s industrial heritage.

Andrew Merritt of Something & Son said: “Ideally relaxation should be an everyday experience and we wanted to design a space that can increase happiness and explore ideas of relaxation in an urban context. The juxtaposition of traditional spa techniques and the industrial setting will create a raw but very human space.”

Paul Smyth of Something & Son said: “When you travel the world, some of the best, most memorable experiences can happen in a simple massage hut or bathhouse. And many other cultures see visits to a bathhouse as an essential way to de-stress or spend time with others. We hope to recreate that unpretentious but effective philosophy at the Barking Bathhouse.”

The building design

Drawing on the industrial heritage of Barking, as well as the aesthetic of darkened timber farm buildings found in nearby Essex and the wooden beach huts of Kent, Something & Son will combine functional design and new spa technologies to create the Bathhouse building. The clear roofed structure of the bar area will allow high levels of sunlight into the communal space. In the treatment area, strong spotlights will pinpoint areas such as the nail bar, creating some drama in an otherwise low lit, tranquil space. A raw aesthetic throughout will challenge traditional notions of ‘luxury’ while creating a blissful space to relax.

The pod-based structure, to be prefabricated and docked together on site, has been planned with the future in mind, and when the Bathhouse closes at the end of the summer the different pods will be separated with the aim of relocating them locally for continued use by the community, including local allotment owners, playgrounds and youth centres.

The spa

The spa area will consist of a series of massage and treatment rooms in addition to a traditional sauna and a cold room lined with ice blocks will bring traditional bathhouse rituals to the experience. There will also be a relaxation area with loungers. Massages, body treatments, manicures and pedicures will all be offered, and Something & Son are working with local beauticians and local allotment gardeners to develop natural and refreshing treatments. To reduce excessive water use the Bathhouse will not have communal pools or energy-wasting hot tubs.

The bar

In the bar cocktails, smoothies, snacks and spa treatments will all be offered on the bar menu, the cucumber canopy above the bar providing fresh produce for use in beauty treatments. Next door a beach-inspired pebble bay is set aside for socialising and sun bathing under a partially open roof. Shingle dunes will provide the perfect space to relax and unwind between treatments, or just to come and catch some rays over lunchtime.

Events programme

The Bathhouse will also run a rich and varied events programme with workshops, talks and discussions with happiness and wellbeing as the central ethos. From talks on whether money can make you happy to chocolate making and meditation workshops, the programme will focus on establishing personal happiness. A workshop on the beauty myth will offer photoshop makeovers showing how media images of beauty are unattainable, while laughter yoga, clowning workshops and comedy nights will all bring an extra bit of happiness to the day.

Anna Doyle, Producer, CREATE, said: “We have developed a relationship with Something & Son over the past two years and are thrilled to have commissioned The Barking Bathhouse. Working with Barking and Dagenham we hope that the project will reinvigorate Barking town centre, bringing back a social space for local people, as well as providing a place for visitors to escape the crowds in central London during the Olympic period. CREATE is a great place to nurture new design talents like Something & Son, and The Barking Bathhouse is very exciting project for east London.”

Councillor Collins, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “I am thrilled that Barking and Dagenham is taking part in the CREATE festival this year, and in such a big way too. The Barking Bathhouse sounds like a fantastic concept and I am looking forward to seeing it operational. I am sure it will have something of interest to everyone and would like to encourage everyone to visit and take advantage of the facilities on offer.”


Public areas are free. Treatments can be reserved in advance or ordered on site. Spa: £8, £2 for Barking and Dagenham residents
Events: £4

CREATE in partnership with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and the Mayor of London. Part of the London 2012 Festival.

The history of bathhouses

While the practice of travelling to hot or cold springs in hopes of curing ailments dates back to pre-historic times, the earliest structured baths are found in the ruins in of the Indus Valley Civilization (present-day Pakistan). These were large communal baths reminiscent of modern day swimming pools. It was in ancient Greece and Rome that public baths became a centre of social and recreational activity. The bathing ritual was developed past immersion or sweating with the development of separate areas for massage and relaxation. Gardens, exercise spaces and even libraries and theatres were added. Meanwhile, in Japan, the historical origins of bathing are based in ritual purification with water, with many early Buddhist temples including saunas for free public use. Bathing in these ancient times was a necessity and socialising and relaxing in these spaces was central to daily life. Roman style public baths were introduced to England in the medieval period but these gained a bad reputation as a front for brothels and many closed during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was not until the mid-19th century that Britain's first true public bath houses were opened, and by 1915 most towns in Britain had at least one.

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Designed in Hackney is a Dezeen initiative to showcase world-class architecture and design created in the borough, which is one of the five host boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as being home to Dezeen’s offices. We’ll publish buildings, interiors and objects that have been designed in Hackney each day until the games this summer.

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