Obermain Therme, Bad Staffelstein (Germany) by Krieger Architekten I Ingenieure

published in sb 3/2016

The Obermain Therme (thermal pool) in Bad Staffelstein with Bavaria’s warmest and strongest geothermal brine re-opened in March 2016 after about a year of rebuilding. During the EUR 5.9 million project, bathing hall 2 with its wellness zone was modernised and a new extra changing area was built. By imposing a new design on these areas, the planners of Krieger Architekten I Ingenieure have laid the conceptual foundations for the future of the region’s biggest and most diverse spa.

After opening in 1986, the Obermain Therme was gradually extended over the decades. It counted its 20,000,000th user in 2012. Further increases in user figures and changing leisure behaviour with longer stays at the thermal pool finally made an extension of changing room capacity necessary. At the same time, the centrepiece of the overall facility, bathing hall 2, proved to be in need of an overhaul.

Refurbishment of the existing building fabric in this area and the construction of the new changing room wing were to go ahead without disrupting normal operations. This logistical challenge was met by installing a winter corridor and the erection of dust exclusion walls. At the start of work, the bed of the Lauterbach stream was also re-routed and a flood protection wall was erected. Both building projects were to be conducted in line with the current state of technology.

In response to the spatial and ­technical requirements, the designers drew up a design strategy that revolves around the theme of salt as a product of nature and largely dictates the choice of colours and materials.

In additional to its functional purposes, the larch-clad changing room extension mounted on columns also forms the spatial and design link between the existing buildings and the new sauna zone.

On the upper floor of the extension, there is a link to the existing changing rooms, bathing hall 2, sauna zone and bathrobe corridor of the spa hotel, which is situated on the opposite side of the Lauterbach. On floor space of 195 m², 12 single changing cubicles and 284 clothes lockers have been created, supplemented by 2 hair-drying areas and a total of 9 hair-dryer stations occupying 27 m². The preliminary washing area comprising 6 shower stations, ladies’ and gents’ toilets, and spacious storage racks cover a total of 64 m².

The changing area makes a spacious and inviting impression and stands out with its both high-grade and functional design. The wall and floor tiles and the surfaces of the changing cubicles and lockers follow the nature-inspired “salt” thematic colour scheme. The ceiling design consists of a visible, white-stained wooden structure and of an also white-stained suspended wooden-strip construction in the wellness room, preliminary washing area and the traffic routes that are atmospherically lit with colour-changing strips of LEDs.

The new changing room level on the upper floor includes a room for partner massage. On the sauna gallery there is a wet massage room and a waiting area for wellness patrons. This is where integrated glass showcases effectively present care products. A curved staircase affords access to the changing area from the sauna gallery. Between the new and existing changing areas are a “Soleum” rest room with a graduation tower and two further massage rooms with direct access to the gallery of bathing hall 2. The gallery overlooking bathing hall 2 serves as a rest area and is furnished with reclining chairs.

On the ground floor, bathing hall 2 has been spruced up and modernised together with parts of the existing structure. The colour and design scheme of the interior harmonises with that of the new changing area. The new wood-and-glass façade, the skylights above the gallery and in the roof, and the visible, preserved roof lining of wood in bathing hall 2 retrace aspects of the facility’s history. In addition to the removal and replacement of all floor- and wallcoverings and the suspended ceilings, it had also been necessary to fully refurbish the concrete of the existing building. Stainless steel components had to be cleaned up, replaced or supplemented.

A special highlight is the sculptural, ­stylised salt crystal of translucent concrete which adjoins the 180 m² fun pool and creates a magical play of colours for users in its interior. The individual concrete slabs with thousands of fine, light-conducting embedded fibres cause the translucent concrete to emit a fascinating glow when suitably back-lit.
120 m² of translucent concrete have been used for the exterior shell. The double-walled construction on a steel frame permits the deployment of freely programmable LED lighting equipment between the slabs. This creates fascinating and stimulating colour changes which, with background music, massage jets and floor bubblers, appeal to all the senses and expose the user to a very special bathing experience.

The wellness offering on the ground floor has also been upgraded and added to. The brine inhalation area is now resplendent in its new glory after its overhaul: glass mosaic tiles on the bench seats, an integrated graduation tower with effect lighting and a new glass front with views of the bathing hall make this room another feel-good location. This area is supplemented by the fully modernised steam bath and an organically shaped shower area with a rain shower and individual shower stations.

Both the modernised bathing hall with its attractions and the newly built changing area met with a positive response immediately after opening. The new, extra changing areas proved to be equal to the large volume of users attracted over the holiday period. The bathing hall promises surprises and diversity.

During a future general overhaul, further measures are planned to enhance the facility’s attractiveness and to bring it up to standard. The older changing rooms with showers and toilets are to undergo renovation along with various outdoor pools and facilities.

Following the introduction of new water treatment plant in the large area of bathing hall 2, further water areas are to follow suit during modernisation.