A special kind of thermal bath in Balaruc-les-Bains by architecture offices DHA and AMG Architectes

Approximately 30 km to the southwest of Montpellier in the French region of Languedoc-Roussillon, the spa Balaruc-les-Bains is located, which is rich in tradition and has been well-known for the high quality of its thermal water already since the 16th century. There, directly on the shore of the Mediterranean lagoon Étang de Thau, a new thermal bath was realized, which started its normal operation in spring of 2015 for up to 4,200 spa guests every day – a number which is just as impressive as the architectural level of this project. Ceramic tiles of Agrob Buchtal decisively contribute to its aesthetic overall picture.

The building planned by the architecture offices DHA (Lyon) and AMG Architectes (Montpellier), whose appearance intentionally is to be reminiscent of a ship, focuses on water, health and well-being. On a total of five floors and an area of approximately 16,800 m², the new building provides space for numerous water pools, relaxation, waiting and treatment rooms as well as a healthcare and a conference area. The light-flooded bathing area on the ground floor is the centre of the building. There, five big, slightly curved water pools with massage jets for the back and the legs as well as water-treading facilities are located. Thus, the pools invite to spa treatments and therapies just as to relaxing. Thanks to large glass surfaces, this central area is well visible from the promenade. From inside, the visitors can enjoy the wonderful view of the Mediterranean lagoon Étang de Thau and the Mont Saint-Clair limestone hill visible from far away.

Ceramics, wood and glass convey exclusiveness and transparency with a view of the Mediterranean lagoon Éang de Thau.

This cheerful transparency is typical of the entire interior design. In this connection, the colour white plays an important part. The architects quite intentionally chose it e.g. for the tiles in the pools: on the one hand, to make the water appear in a pleasant natural colour, and on the other hand, to generate a special mood of the light by reflections. Light wall surfaces and tiles are also characteristic of the design in other areas. This is advantageous for cleanliness and hygiene, but also conveys a fresh and friendly impression.

In the relaxation zones, on the contrary, dark ceramic floor coverings are to be found, which radiate intimacy, calm and security. Great care in detail finds expression in ceramic special pieces, which are a particular strong point of Agrob Buchtal at the realization of comprehensive concepts. Typical examples for this are skirtings used as easy-care and at the same time elegant transition between wall and floor or functional gutter tiles with discreet look. In foot traffic and waiting zones, colour was intentionally used as stimulating element: wall surfaces in vigorous pink, yellow or green shades set accents, lend the corridors an attractive dynamism and avoid the often monotonous atmosphere in classic thermal baths. This objective is also underlined by the fact that the visitors generally do not see the technical infrastructure necessary for the operation: conduits, pipes and installations are discreetly “hidden“ within the sophisticated building in order to prevent even the slightest disturbances of the well-being.

Great care in detail finds expression in ceramic special pieces such as discreet gutter tiles (at the left border of the floor surface) or skirtings (at the right border of the floor surface) as practical and visually attractive transition between floor and wall.

In Balaruc-les-Bains, not only the aesthetic but also the functional aspects are convincing. Among other things, this is ensured by the variety of tiles used from the Agrob Buchtal series Emotion, Geo 2.0 and ChromaPlural. Apart from numerous colours and formats, these collections are also available with different slip resistances, which cover a wide spectrum. In areas walked on with shoes, coverings of the slip-resistance categories R10 or R11 were used. For the many barefoot zones in which water brought in makes the floors slippery, the whole range of the relevant slip-resistance categories A, B and C was utilized in order to realize – subtly differentiated – the optimal solution in each individual area.

Another advantage is the permanently effective HT coating applied in-plant. The tiles of the series Emotion and ChromaPlural provided with it are extremely easy to clean and have an antibacterial effect without using any chemical products. In addition, they contribute to a healthy indoor climate by the elimination of unwelcome or harmful odours – characteristics which are absolutely advantageous in Balaruc-les-Bains, and that not only in the central swimming area but also in changing rooms, showers, treatment or conference rooms, corridors, reception zones and other foot traffic areas.

In the foot traffic and waiting zones, however, vigorous colours are intentionally added to lend the long corridors dynamism and rhythm or to create contrasts. In the relaxation zones, dark shades radiate intimacy and security.

Carefully selected materials, a stringent architecture and a well thought-out concept formed the basis for an extraordinary overall result. The positive response since the opening shows that this contemporary interpretation of a thermal bath meets with great acceptance and the guests feel good in this place perfectly joining health and recreation together.

Agrob Buchtal, www.agrob-buchtal.com

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