Design March 2015: Reykjavík designer Unnur Valdís Kristjánsdóttir has produced a set of floatation devices to keep users' bodies just below the surface of the water while soaking in the country's hot springs (+ slideshow).
The designs by Unnur Valdís Kristjánsdóttir include a swimming cap that fits closely around the head and a series of wide straps that can be wrapped around limbs in various configurations. Collectively called Float, the products are made from moulded polyethylene foam – a buoyant material that has been covered with neoprene and lycra fabric.
Kristjánsdóttir presented the project in an installation called Overlap at a Reykjavik swimming pool during the DesignMarch festival earlier this month. Bathers floated in the pool against a backdrop of brightly coloured projections created by Berlin-based graphic designer Siggi Eggertsson, and wore suits with mottled patterns by Icelandic designer Eygló Ms Lárusdóttir. Ambient music was played to create a tranquil atmosphere.
Using a combination of material weight and placement, the floats are designed to keep the body almost completely submerged in the water to ensure users remain warm in Iceland's thermal baths, which are filled with volcanically heated water.
The geothermal pools are supplied by water from below the earth's crust that is heated to approximately 38 degrees Celsius – just above human body temperature.
"The idea of Float has always been within me, being an Icelander and growing up and living with abundance of water and geothermal energy," Kristjánsdóttir told Dezeen. "There is no place that makes me feel better than the water, for me the water is a magical healing source."
"Float is a offspring from Iceland's bathing culture and made to add a new dimension to the water experience, one of relaxation and total bliss," she added.
Kristjánsdóttir claims that floating helps to promote a state of calm both physically and mentally by reducing muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as slowing the frequency of brainwaves to a state typically achieved during hypnosis and sleep.
"Floating also has a great effect on the mind as the deeply relaxing activity sets the brain to a theta state, which is a deep and healing state, normally achieved in deep meditation," said the designer.
The project came about when Kristjánsdóttir noticed that similar products lifted the body above the surface of the water, meaning users were missing out on the feeling of being "wrapped in water."
Kristjánsdóttir hosts monthly "float gatherings" at public pools across Reykjavik and has recently expanded the project to pools outside the capital, allowing users to enjoy views of the northern lights while floating in Iceland's naturally heated outdoor baths.
"People love it, and we have a wide range of people coming to do it, families, couples and individuals interested in relaxation and meditation or just simply wanting to get rid of harmful stress and experience a relaxing and soothing experience," she said.