Architecture Student

Saco Lake Bathhouse

S A C O  L A K E  B A T H H O U S E

spring | 2015

Located in the Presidential Mountain Range of New Hampshire on Saco Lake, the bathhouse is designed as a hiker's retreat. Traditionally, the bathhouse is a spiritual, cleansing sequence of baths. In keeping with this tradition, the Saco Lake Bathhouse emphasizes sequence through a series of experiential bath spaces, encompassing all aspects of nature. Further, the Bathhouse separates the experiences of the bathing spaces and the sleeping quarters by considering the ground and the sky as key design elements. The transition space between these two experiences is the outdoor patio by the changing rooms.

The sleeping quarters for the hikers are located in a large CMU tower reaching to the tree tops with a glass facade facing south. A rustic steel shell covers this core and supports a hanging staircase. Openings in the shell mimic those between the leaves in a tree canopy and create a similar, dramatic lighting effect for the whole tower. The staircase leads up to two different sleeping options: indoors and under the stars at the top of the trees. The top of the tower is also a great place to view the rest of the landscape, specifically Saco Lake and Elephant Head, as the window openings are larger.

experiential sequence

The cleansing ritual of the baths is defined by the sequence of transitioning from bath to bath. The sequence begins with the tepidarium, a public pool submerged in the mountain. There is a large pool deck and central seating in the water to facilitate social interaction. The tepidarium is located on the edge of being on top of the mountain and being within the mountain, connected by a large window which lets in natural light and views of the immediate landscape. It is a transition space from the outside world into the bathing sequence. 

The sequence continues up a small, natural staircase to the more intimate pool, the caldarium. The caldarium is located deeper into the mountain and does not incorporate a pool deck, to further increase the private nature of the pool. The cave-like qualities of the pool allow for steam to build up, adding to the overall experience. There is a small window cut from the CMU retaining wall to let in natural light, but this bath closes off any other connection to the exterior surroundings.

Once exiting the caldarium, the user again transitions up a natural staircase to the third pool, the fridgidarium. The staircase releases the user from the cave and submerges him or her into the forest, where they have the choice to either walk down a narrow and high pier or climb down stairs in order to get to the fridgidarium. At the end of each path is an exhilarating jump into the cold water to end the sequence. The changing rooms are then located a short walk away.