Refuge from the City
If ever a place called out for escape, it is the infinite conglomeration of concrete towers and broken pavement that makes up São Paulo, Brazil-the western hemisphere's biggest city, at 11 million strong.
Seth Kugal -- Interior Design, 7/1/2011 5:35:00 PM
firm: Studio Arthur Casas
site: São Paulo
If ever a place called out for escape, it is the infinite conglomeration of concrete towers and broken pavement that makes up São Paulo, Brazil-the western hemisphere's biggest city, at 11 million strong. Escape via a liter bottle of Skol beer, shared with friends at a corner bar, may work to some extent. As the Brazilian city becomes ever more cosmopolitan, however, the well-heeled have sought increasingly sophisticated forms of relaxation. That can mean beach houses an hour or six away, depending on traffic and whether you have a helicopter.
Residents of the luxury apartments above the exclusive Shopping Cidade Jardim mall need only take the elevator down to the Spa Cidade Jardim, hidden away on the fifth floor. Residents pay a nominal fee, but anyone with $450 a month can join to soak in the calm. "In a city as chaotic as São Paulo, the spa's soft colors and lighting and organic materials help to create a moment of refuge," Interior Design Hall of Fame member Arthur Casas says.
The neutral walls of the 10,700-square-foot space vary only as far as cream to beige to blond wood and back again. "I'm suspicious of strong colors," Casas notes. "Also, in a spa, the color ought to be minimal, since one is seeking relaxation not stimulation." Equally soothing is the artificial light in the virtually windowless setting, with most of the fixtures recessed in the walls, shelves, and ceiling coves.
Since São Paulo's elite are private people, Studio Arthur Casas made every effort to reduce contact among spa clients. Men and women enter separate lounges just after reception. In the locker rooms beyond the lounges, restrooms and showers are all individual. From there, it's on to the his-and-hers circuits: rooms for the usual array of massages-shiatsu, deep tissue, Swedish-suites with hydrotherapy tubs, saunas scented with eucalyptus, steam rooms with all-around porcelain tile. The sexes meet only in treatment suites for couples or in the pool area before being ushered, at the end of the spa journey, into single-sex relaxation areas.
The pool area has both a 40-foot swimming pool and a massage pool. Socializing occurs primarily in the latter, which is divided by pierlike extensions into stations that focus on just one thing, whether that's the back, the feet, or the circulatory system. Between the massage and swimming pools, two massive showerheads are mounted on the ceiling. Press a button, and it's like stepping beneath a waterfall. (Drains are under the raised decking.)
Water also shimmies down walls throughout. And cushions and mattresses everywhere are rustic, almost as if they're covered in burlap, though lying on them is nothing like sprawling out on a potato sack in a barn. As you recline on one of the relaxation areas' beds, accessorized by a crescent-shape pillow and equipped with an individual TV, a slim pitcher of fresh watermelon juice and a ceramic bowl of mint ice cream await.
If that doesn't supply enough sweet escape, there's always the movie theater downstairs in the mall. Popcorn is served with truffle oil, and wine comes by the glass.
Photography by Romulo Fialdini.