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Architecture has always cultivated an intimate exchange with the surrounding nature. Three award-winning projects of the ICONIC AWARDS 2023: Innovative Architecture show how convincingly contemporary hotel and wellness architecture can be orientated towards tradition and turn the landscape itself into an event.

By Sofia Wrede

Serlachius Taide Sauna (Art Sauna) © Serlachius Art Foundation

Anyone who rushes through busy streets to work, sports, shopping or back to the family every day in high-density cities will only come across a little greenery here and there. Even the view from the balcony often ends at the opposite house wall. Even if there are good attempts to reduce traffic and noise in the city centre and to create places with a quality of stay through more green spaces, parks and promenades – relaxation and recreation are promised above all by spending time in nature. Whether at the weekend or on holiday, whether in the mountains or by the sea, hotels and wellness oases offer attractive opportunities for a relaxing escape from the city. The more appealing the architecture and the closer to nature the location, the better the change of scenery. The hospitality industry offers a wide range of new options – from robust tree houses to extravagant ice hotels. We present three outstanding examples.

Sauna and Landscape

The art sauna at Serlachius Museum Gösta opens up a new architectural dimension to Finnish sauna culture, characterised by a close connection between art and design. Developed by the renowned trio Héctor Mendoza, Mara Partida and Boris Bežan from Barcelona in collaboration with the Finnish architect Pekka Pakkanen, the architecture of the sauna pays homage to the unique ambience of the neighbouring Serlachius Museum Gösta. The sauna building is subtly integrated into the landscape and forms a harmonious unit with the surrounding nature. A horizontal line of stone and wood, which visually connects the building units, emphasises the proximity to the surrounding forest, while the concrete plinth links the sauna to the ground and rock.

Serlachius Taide Sauna (Art Sauna) © Serlachius Art Foundation

Taking a sauna is an elementary part of everyday Finnish architecture. In the Serlachius Museum’s art sauna, the planners have emphasised this connection by exhibiting works of art, primarily by Finnish artists, in the indoor and outdoor areas. The art sauna is not just a place to nurture body and mind, but a sensory experience that celebrates the connection between people, art and nature.

Anchored in the Slope

The “Hotel Saltus” in the municipality of Jenesien, not far from Bolzano, was placed by architect Heike Pohl in its South Tyrolean surroundings – and yet it seems to have sprung from the forest in Jenesien. The building is integrated into the slope, allowing spectacular views and literally anchoring the hotel in the ground. By using regionally sourced materials for the building core, the interior and the façade, the architecture brings the location and its vegetation to life. Heike Pohl uses larch, which is native to the region, for the façade design, giving the building an authentic, local expression.

In the South Tyrolean village of Jenesien, guests of the Hotel Saltus come into truly extraordinary contact with the surrounding forest and the mountain panorama that lies at their feet. © Saltus GmbH

Architectural Stories

The “Magma Resort & Spa” on Santorini is not only an architectural masterpiece, but also a nod to the agricultural history of the Greek island. The project incorporates the terraced topography of the surrounding vineyards into its architectural language. The “pezoules” traditionally used in the region – stepped wine terraces protected by stone walls – are essential for winegrowing on the steep slopes of the island. The architecture mimics the shapes of the pezoules and blends the individual building units of the resort respectfully into the surrounding hills. The cultural connection between man and the environment becomes tangible and the resort creates a space in which the history of the island itself becomes an integral part of the guest experience. It is not just a place to stay, but an ode to the beauty of nature and the cultural richness of Santorini.

Magma Resort & Spa © PEOPLE

The projects presented in this article are among the winners of the ICONIC AWIARDS 2023: Innovative Architecture.
If you are also realising exciting and ambitious architectural projects – the registration phase for the 2024 awards begins on 26 February this year.

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