World’s Top 10 Best-Designed Spas

Writer Heta Shah | Published February 19, 2014

A retreat, a haven or refuge in the concrete jungle – these are just a few adjectives and descriptions used for urban spas. Some, however, take things a few notches higher, with their distinctive designs and superlative styles. Whether it is by renowned fashion designer, product designer or an architect, each of these has its unique decor concept and style nuances that wrap you with decadent luxury in the midst of the city’s humdrum.

  • ESPA at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore

    Spread over 107,000 sq ft of well-manicured gardens and orchid mazes on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, the city’s largest spa, ESPA at Resorts World Sentosa, is undoubtedly an urban oasis. Well within city lights, the spa offers the much-needed respite from the hustle of the metropolis. The collaboration between American architect Michael Graves’ firm with Singaporean DP Architects has resulted in this sanctuary that boasts of contemporary colonial luxury replete with dark wood features and bamboo ceilings. The property packs leisurely spaced interlocking pools, rock saunas, crystal steam rooms, ice fountains, outdoor vitality pools and cold plunge pools, as well as unique forest onsen-style pools, sea-facing open-air treatment suites and a sleep zone for relaxing after a massage.

  • The Spa at Viceroy Miami, United States

    Design’s prodigious enfant terrible, Philippe Starck has whipped up yet another quirky masterpiece – this time a 28,000-sq-ft spa and fitness centre burrowed on the 15th floor of a downtown Miami skyscraper. It bears all the markers of Starck’s signature style – massive mirrors, vibrant crystal chandeliers, whimsical fixtures and chic French furniture – albeit ensconced in true Miami flavour. A 5,000-sq-ft water lounge, resembling a library, rests as a stunning centrepiece of the spa, which also features plunge pools, a redwood sauna, eucalyptus- infused steam room, a private movie theatre, reflecting pools and ten treatment rooms, along with floor-to-ceiling views of Biscayne Bay.

  • Spa at The Dolder Grand, Zurich, Switzerland

    Originally built in 1899, the castle-like iconic Dolder Grand underwent a Norman Foster-led restoration in 2001. The historic and original tower building received two new wings and modern architectural accoutrements. A new entrant was the 4,000-sq-m spa, where Alpine freshness meets Japanese Zen. Take in the panoramic views through the floor-to-ceiling windows while you soak yourself in their innumerable water festivities, such as swimming pool, whirlpools, steam baths, kotatsu footbaths, aroma pools, steampots, as well as a snowparadise and the unique sunaburo, a series of Japanese-style heated-pebble tubs. After a leisurely massage or spa journey, slump into one of their hanging lounge chairs in the relaxation area.

  • St Pancras Spa at St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, United Kingdom

    A refurbished palatial historic building, originally fashioned by Sir George Gilbert Scott next to a prestigious ancient railway station, is undoubtedly an interesting location for a spa. Discretely concealed in the former underground steam kitchens of St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the St Pancras Spa is a hidden sanctuary, strewn with period nuances, such as the great brick archways, floor-to-ceiling arched windows and tiles recreated from the originals discovered in the building. Flaunting Victorian tiled relaxation pool with hydro loungers, sauna and steam rooms, as well as six treatment rooms, the spa effortlessly fuses a peacock theme, symbolising eternal life and revival, with the elegant Victorian architecture. Lastly, the love for exploration and travel is well-reflected in the spa menu, which takes you on indulgent ‘Journeys’ from India and Africa to Indonesia and The Silk Route, each one offering local treatments of the region.

  • Elemis Spa at The St Regis Bangkok, Thailand

    Bang in the middle of Bangkok’s concrete jungle lies this pod of luxurious indulgence, almost suspended mid-air on the 15th floor of the 47-storey tower that is home to the St Regis Bangkok. Designed by Kate and Paul Greenwood of studioaria, the Elemis Spa is a white-marble retreat adorned with white leather and sand-coloured carpet. Hop in one of the 16 treatment rooms to bathe in heat, steam and clay, or zone out under lights in the colour-therapy chamber. Take your time to linger around in the duplex of hot and cold pools and waterfall, lounge in giant wicker egg-shaped relaxation pods suspended over the mezzanine, as well as plug in your iPod and boogie under the disco showers.

  • Armani/SPA at Armani Hotel Milano, Italy

    “It always depends on how it’s done – it mustn’t be overtly exhibitionist,” says Giorgio Armani on his lifestyle and design philosophies. This also holds true for his vision behind the Armani Hotel Milano, located in the heart of Milan’s fashion district. The design of the space – sensual shapes in varied textures, dark wood accents, masculine minimalism and the iconic greige (grey/beige) – its unmistakably Armani. The Armani/SPA on the eighth floor delivers a matching sensory experience to the indulgent decor. Paying close attention to the smallest details, Giorgio Armani has personally picked all the materials from the green river stone, tatami and marmoleum that embellish the floor to the back painted glass and mirror adorning the walls. Quite fittingly, the treatments also spell urban respite – be it the MU (Stillness) treatments for peace and relaxation, LIBERTÀ (Freedom) treatments to encourage release of physical tension, or FLUIDITÀ

    (Fluidity) treatments to balance and energise mind and body.

  • The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA at The Ritz- Carlton, Hong Kong

    With ‘Cocooned among the clouds’ as the theme, The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA in Hong Kong is just that. Perched on the 116th floor, the sprawling 9,257-sq-ft spa gives you the surreal feeling of floating in the mist (and sometimes Hong Kong smog). While the high level might be the chief attribute, its well-orchestrated decor – rounded edges and curved walls – gives a distinctive feeling of a protective embrace. As you step into this elevated sanctuary, you are aptly greeted with a floating cocoon-shaped porcelain art installation developed with artist Eva Menz, which is suspended from the ceiling. The silkworm cocoon theme injects the decor with a whiff of Chinese culture and heritage, as it dates back to the history of silk during the ancient times in China. Designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), the space features a relaxation lounge, nine deluxe treatment rooms and two couple’s suites; each with wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing the picturesque view of Victoria Harbour and the city.

  • Spa at Viceroy Snowmass, Colorado, United States

    Designed by Jean Michel-Gathy, the 7,000-sq-ft Spa at Viceroy Snowmass is the perfect marriage of ancient Ute, Nordic and Asian ceremonies. Custom-designed brass gates usher you into the spa refuge of this modern mountain lodge. The first thing to catch your attention is the uniquely designed relaxation lounge surrounded by cascading water features and waterfalls, which houses the only antler in the entire property, hanging elegantly over the centre. The spa includes six luxurious treatment rooms, including a hydrotherapy Vichy shower room and a couple’s suite. The spa menu boasts a selection of holistic wellness experiences, from Ute American Indian-inspired therapies to contemporary beauty rituals.

  • Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake, China

    Located along the shores of West Lake, the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake presents a medley of Chinese dynastic traditions against the backdrop of the lake’s scenic beauty with its lofty mountains, willow-tree inlaid shorelines and calm waters. Donning a village-like setting, enveloped by water, the luxurious enclave has been fashioned by Bensley Design Studios and Concept Saphyr using traditional Jiang Nan elements along with contemporary fixtures and muted lighting. The spa also boasts herbal steam rooms radiating in gold with ice fountains, multi-stream experience showers, as well as elegant treatment rooms with a swing and massive bathtub. Soak yourself in imperial bliss with spa rituals that have been inspired by the 18th-century Emperor Qianlong, who frequented West Lake in search of peace and revitalisation.

  • The Spa by ESPA at The Leela Palace Udaipur, India

    Soaked in Rajasthan’s regal exuberance, the Leela Palace Udaipur and its grand ESPA spa are fit for a decadent escape from mundane routine. Reminiscent of the royalty of bygone era, it is the country’s first luxury tented spa. Sprawling over 35,000 sq ft of lush landscaped gardens and revitalising pools, the spa is designed by the internationally acclaimed architect, Bill Bensley, along with interior team by Jeffrey Wilkes of LTW Design Works.

    The tents come resplendent with Makrana marble and timber (hard wood), as well as celebrated local artisanal forms of Thekri (the use of intricately chiselled mirrors on plaster) and Tarkashi (fine inlay work of burnished brass or gold on wood), which infuse furniture, walls and panels. The spa is divided into two sections: the Lake Spa with views of Lake Pichola and the Haveli Spa, set in a historic building with chequered marble floors and latticed windows.