For the Palm Heights Hotel, FOOD New York designs a lush, outdoor bathhouse

The genius of the traditional bathhouse is its simplicity: just four walls, fire, and water. For the Garden Club of the Palm Heights Hotel on the Cayman Islands, FOOD New York managed to distill things even further, all but eliminating one of those essential elements.

“The brief was very open-ended,” said founding director Dong-Ping Wong, so he took a plane down to check out the site. “You walk out of the plane into this wall of humidity,” he described, “so it was a no-brainer. You’re sweating anyway. Instead of fabricating the bathhouse, could you just get outside?”

In effect, that wall of humidity is a bathhouse wall. But in reality, lush hedges do the spatial trick, carving out zones across a 35,000-square-foot spa with a sextet of pools, a hammam, treatment and locker rooms, and more. “Planting became an architectural material,” Wong said. “It had to have a certain level of thickness, because we wanted opacity.”


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