How did Holmes Place open a gym in the home of the pastry? Thoughtfully, with the help of ORMS Architects + Designers
Laura Houseley -- Interior Design, 1/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
When the executives of British health club Holmes Place chose Vienna's central First District as their next location, they needed a design firm with the sophistication to handle a 19th-century building near the Stephansdom cathedral. They didn't have to look far. Besides designing two Holmes Place branches in London, ORMS Architects + Designers had already delivered interpretations of the brand in Berlin and a town on Vienna's outskirts, leaving the health-club honchos in no doubt as to who was going to tackle the tricky dilemma of inserting a gym in the heart of one of Europe's most traditional cities. ORMS's new Holmes Place Lifestyle Club Wien-Börseplatz-health club implying recuperation from illness in Austria-proves that the trust was merited.
Architecture has been critical to Holmes Place's European expansion. In central Vienna, the company chose an 1860 office building. "We were able to develop brand characteristics, recognizable details, but generally we let the location influence our design," says associate architect Sean Hatcher, who has so far handled four Holmes Place commissions.
The building's classical facade remains untouched. Inside, the domed marble entry is the only original feature. The reception desk, on axis with the front door, is faced in a thin layer of marble applied to glass and suspended as a panel in front of fluorescents. Not until members pass beyond this amber-glowing reception point do they experience the building's cathedrallike, 59-foot-high atrium.
This atrium extends upward, past the mezzanine and two higher floors. "Stacking was the most difficult aspect to get around," says Hatcher. To overcome this obstacle, ORMS turned movement-across walkways, up and down stairs, through dry and wet zones-into a pleasurable journey.
The basement pool is lined in stainless steel, a leak-resistant material selected for its visual and tactile qualities. On the functional side, it was important to include the high level of spa-type amenities expected by the Viennese, who have a long-standing tradition of communal bathing. "We started with all the usual elements and then went beyond expectations," says Hatcher. That involved a whirlpool, a steam room, a sauna, and four types of showers. In addition, there's a relaxation space for cooling down on a mesh-covered chaise longue, grabbing a drink, or plugging headphones into a sound system.
The third, topmost floor offers studios for aerobics and yoga, plus a Spinning studio with a bright yellow epoxy-resin floor. On the second floor are weights and cardio machines. Solariums, changing rooms, and more saunas occupy the mezzanine, directly below.
Lighting changes subtly from level to level. Relaxingly dim by the basement pool, artificial illumination becomes brighter in the upbeat exercise studios. Progress from zone to zone is marked by a shift from filtered fluorescents in blue (wet) to amber (dry). Materials, meanwhile, are relatively uniform. Limestone covers floors. Walnut paneling and leather upholstery add warmth to such public spaces as the reception area and the bar and restaurant.
Facing the street on the ground floor, the bar-restaurant is open to the Viennese population at large. "It's a public space that feels like a private space," says Hatcher. Besides the walnut paneling, leather-covered seating, and limestone floor, ORMS selected the woven-wool rugs and even the Café del Mar "soundscape," Hatcher says. The menu lists such specialties as profiteroles and the Coconut Kiss, a fruit drink with grenadine. This is, after all, still Vienna.