The Hotel Europe site is located within a Prime Special Amenity area, surrounded by parkland. The largest mountain range in Ireland forms the backdrop across the lake. The glaciated valleys of the nearby ‘Black Valley’ and the ‘Gap of Dunloe’, where huge stone boulders emerge from the hills, define the local landscape. Originally built in 1962, the hotel is as configured as a south-facing “U”-shaped building orientated towards the lake. The brief was to integrate a 4,500sqm Spa building into the site whilst maintaining the view to the lake enjoyed by the existing hotel.
The approach was to carve the building out of the hill, creating a series of stone 'boulders' that would emerge from the landscape and stretch towards the foreshore of the lake, echoing the surrounding geological forms and imagery of the glaciated valleys. As the grass-covered volumes emerge from the garden a series of indoor and sheltered outdoor spaces are created which are viewed as 'rooms’ within the garden.
Internally, the spa is experienced as a sanctuary within the hill. The largely subterranean environment is expressed as a contrast of dark and light, density and void. Internal courtyard gardens are 'scooped' out of the plan - bringing natural daylight deep into the building whilst allowing places for private contemplation. The reception areas, along with the treatment rooms and staff offices, are organized around the sunken courtyards
Views of the landscape are used to pull the user through the building towards the garden rooms, where the infinity-edge pools are orientated to overlook the lake, uniting one body of water with another. Within these rooms the threshold between interior and exterior is blurred as dark stone slabs wrap around from the outside to line the interior of the room, reinforcing the feeling that the space has been hollowed from the landscape.
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