Eigen Thermen Resort – Concept Book

Eigen Thermen Resort is a new hotel and wellness resort in the forest of Chaam, a small town near the Belgian border. Together with MRO, we were commissioned two tasks: create an overall concept for the developments and, after that, design the actual buildings.

Chaam, the Netherlands
Eigen Thermen & Resort Group BV
hotel, leisure, restaurant / bar, retail, sports
10.800 sqm + 1.400 sqm + 45 ha
MRO studio

The first part led to the Research & Design Concept Book, in which we present the values and vision of the company. It concludes with design outings and concept sketches as the starting point for the preliminary design. The book plays a central role in the further development of the project. The natural environment of Eigen Thermen Resort will be one of the project’s most valuable assets. The area of development is around 45 hectares, mostly to be used for public recreational use. There are two main building plots. The first and biggest will house the hotel, beauty and wellness center, as well as fine dining restaurant Zomersneeuw, while the second, more densely wooded plot hosts bistro De Wilde.

We found three fundaments on which we based the project’s concept. For our first fundament, nature, we’ve done extensive research into local flora and fauna, seasons, light, and natural structures.
To make sure the massive program fits well into its surroundings, we thought of ways to conceptually integrate the buildings as much as possible.
For example, we looked into how the vegetation changes over seasons, and used that information for the building placement.

The second fundament is the meaning of wellness and wellbeing concerning spirituality and belief. After studying critical religions such as Zen Buddhism and Taoism, as well as the five Chinese elements, we found the relation between time and nature as one of the most important aspects of wellbeing.

Since the Netherlands has no historical sauna culture, we looked into foreign wellness traditions – our third fundament.

Wellness traditions

Roman baths, Islamic hammam, Jewish Mikveh
Japanese sento, Finnish sauna

Much of the elements of ancient wellness facilities are still relevant today as they regard privacy, hygiene, and bathing rituals.

Our research on these fundaments resulted in an overall vision that centralizes the passing of time in nature. Visitors of Eigen Thermen Resort must step away from their rushed everyday life and slow down to see the change of seasons, moving light and growth of plants. The concept translates into a design in aspects such as orientation, material use, and wall and roof openings.

We continued by developing a specific design concept for the most crucial part of the project: the wellness area. We based this concept on Romanticism, an art movement that played an essential role in defining the relationship between human and nature. By analyzing a large amount of paintings and studying the romantic theories of Edmund Burke (A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1757), we distinguished three recurring themes about the emotional perception of the (built) environment. That resulted in the design of three separate wings for the wellness center: ‘goddelijke natuur’ (the beautiful), ‘onheilspellend drama’ (the sublime), and ‘dromerig escapisme’ (the picturesque).

Spatial concept: Romanticism

Goddelijke natuur, dromerig escapisme, onheilspellend drama - flow of themes
Goddelijke natuur, dromerig escapisme, onheilspellend drama - inspiration from paintings
Goddelijke natuur, dromerig escapisme, onheilspellend drama - spatial features
Goddelijke natuur, dromerig escapisme, onheilspellend drama - incidence of light
Goddelijke natuur, dromerig escapisme, onheilspellend drama - organizing principles
Collage of ETR hotel, wellness, and beauty
Collage of Zomersneeuw restaurant
Collage of De Wilde bistro
Collage of De Wilde dependance