A glass walkway wraps a steamy geothermal pool at the heart of this spa resort in rural China, while timber-clad villas create sleeping quarters among the vegetation (+ slideshow).
Ruff Well Water Resort by Shanghai studio AIM Architecture is a 2.4-hectare spa retreat located around a series of hot springs at the foot of Luo Fu Shan, a mountain range in Sichuan Province, China.
Glass, timber and pebble-covered buildings provide a variety of spa, yoga and dining facilities.
The structures and a series of geothermal pools are linked by a network of paved and gravelled trails, with small humpback bridges crossing narrow water channels.
"Tree-capped mountains dotted with temples pleasantly surround the site," said the architects.
"It is a place where water has shaped the land. Rivers have carved out the valley and water naturally springs from the earth in warm water wells."
Facilities are set in separate wings of the resort's primary building – a structure with curving clay and pebble-coated walls that wraps a hill at the centre of the site.
Each wing features a large window, which are all directed away from a thermal pool encircled by a glazed walkway.
"The building's shape and therefore the experience of the spa are informed by this hill," said the studio.
"As you progress through the stages of bathing, you are offered differing views across the changing landscape."
Further outdoor pools are scattered throughout the resort, including one sheltered beneath a timber and rusted metal canopy.
The faceted awning is supported by a series of pointed supports, which extend down to meet a ground surface of blue-grey pebbles.
Inside the spa wing, small stone-lined pools are set at different levels across the stepped floor and screened by curving grey walls.
"We have sought to push the theme of water, to express its various forms," explained the architects.
"Some pools are still, others whirl, bubble, massage and so on. We have sought to make these conditions real, pure, and positioned carefully in the landscape to make this a completely escapist place."
Slices of river stone – a local rock comprised of fused pebbles worn by water – were used to cover the floors and curving walls in the main spa facilities, as well as to create benches and pools.
A building with a curving tiled roof, called MuWeCo, is set apart from the main facilities beside a pond.
Triangular timber screens and panes of glass make up the facade of the pavilion, which is used as a wedding venue and conference space as well as a museum.
"This building has a characteristic vault roof that makes its shape more like a big tent than a big building," said the design team.
Inside, the draping roof form is lined in planks of timber and floors covered in pieces of river stone.
Guests are accommodated in a series of timber-clad chalets that vary in shape and scale, some with single-pitched roofs, others with flat tops.
Dark-stained timber screens made up from diagonal and vertical struts cover the facades.
Sections of cork, timber and stone were applied to the interior walls, while glazing opens from some of the ground-floor rooms onto more secluded pools.
Photography is by Dirk Weiblen.
Architect: AIM Architecture
Design team: Wendy Saunders, Vincent de Graaf, Leonardo Colluci, Allan Yin, Claudia Juhre, Zoe Zhu, June Deng, Andrew Irwin, Shelley Mock, Dongker, Liat Goldman, Ted Zhang, Toni Pavic
Client: Yang Dong, Onesun Ltd
Engineer: Hua Heng
Institute contractor: Hui Yi Decoration & Design, Yasha Industrial Park Development Architecture
Furniture hardware: Champion Creative Furniture, Matzform, Glorta
Carpets, floor and wall coverings: Uni Wood, Merbau floor
Lighting: Colorful Lighting
Pool and spa equipment: Dai Si Le Pools, SAWO
Sauna sanitary equipment: Kohler, DC2
Mechanical equipment: Fantastic planner & Co., Ltd