Messana O'Rorke Architects imparts a sexy and refreshing glow to Skin Care Lab, a new Soho day spa.
Henry Urbach -- Interior Design, 4/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
ON THE FOURTH FLOOR of a building in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood—a building once occupied by art galleries and now increasingly given over to professional offices—Skin Care Lab offers men and women a full range of face and body treatments, including facials, massage, nail care, waxing, and body scrubs. Designed by Messana O'Rorke Architects, the 2,000-sq.-ft. interior follows a minimalist course that is nonetheless textured, sexy, and articulate in the way it establishes relations among architectural surfaces, interior space, and the human body in various states of movement and repose.
The spa is accessed through a corridor near the building's elevator bank. "We wanted to make something that would draw you towards the space," says principal Brian Messana. Instead of a standard door that cuts through the hallway partition, common to most of the building's tenants, Messana O'Rorke carved out a deep, interstitial zone that yields a strong visual identity and a sense of significant transition. A large, hinged, stainless-steel panel shears away from the wall plane to reveal the bleached oak flooring of the spa beyond; at the back of this zone is a top-lit, acid-etched glass door emblazoned with the spa's logo. By creating this entry as a sort of hatch, the designers invite spa clients to pass into another world, a feeling that is further enhanced by the compressed, 8-ft. ceiling height, which the designers also specified for the spa's more intimate treatment rooms.
Beyond the glass entrance doors, the ceiling regains its full height of over 11 feet. "It's really a loft space, and we wanted to keep that feeling," says Messana. "At the same time, there was a lot of program that had to be defined and integrated." In order to preserve a loft-like sense of spatial expanse, Messana O'Rorke developed a plan that maintains two existing, beefy columns free of new partitions, and organized program and spatial boundaries to ensure that daylight from the large, south-facing windows passes through much of the spa interior.
Messana O'Rorke designed the reception and product display area as a white room with white furniture and a linear, stainless-steel reception desk opposite the entrance. Clients pass through another threshold space to reach the main treatment areas. Here, Messana O'Rorke introduced a rather stunning, stainless-steel partition that deftly performs multiple architectural tasks. A plane of brushed stainless steel with inset, vertically mounted fluorescent tubes, the structure separates the nail-care area and administrative program from the individual treatment rooms. As clients pass along this edge, the luminous tubes establish a cadence to their passage while also bathing their bodies in cool light. The plane itself is a thick wall concealing storage cabinets, closets, and shelves. Messana O'Rorke further explored the relationship of surface, depth, and passage along the treatment room doors, positioned right at the edge of the Sheetrock.
Individual rooms are soundproof and outfitted with showers and dressing areas faced in limestone tile. There's a somewhat clinical undertone, but overall the space remains warm, embodied, and sensuous. Lighting in the treatment rooms can be modulated to accommodate a full range of treatments, from medical procedures requiring bright light to soothing spa sessions that take place within an ethereal glow.