Toronto, ON


Bath House

Andrew Levitt

University of Waterloo School of Architecture 

The project began with research into the cleansing typologies of the world to first understand how they work individually and how they relate to one another through differences, adjacencies and overlaps. The Toronto Islands serve as a retreat for the diverse collection of people within the city, each with their own histories. It was important that this space of urban relief did not reflect any specific group of people but the same diverse collection of histories. This would help formulate a spatial strategy that would condense and reconcile them all with each other, producing a toolkit for design application.

The basin has distinct presence in many cultures, either by itself, or in conjunction with other bathing spaces—this became the literal and figurative mediator of the space. The linear basin corridor negotiates both a moment of unity and clarity—reflecting its ritualistical purpose across varying cultures—between a sequence of “gardens” or “phases”. One must pass through each phase with intention, resetting within the corridor. This movement is structured and enforced through the architecture itself (highly internal spaces) to invoke the processional nature of historic bathing rituals.

We begin with the entry garden—a small courtyard that opens to the cafe, event building and administrative spaces. This is an invitation to enter the space but also an initiation for ritual. Second is the changing garden—a gender neutral changing building with access to a garden. This is where an individual is separated and sent to prepare themselves for their journey. Third is the pool garden—the space is made up of several courtyards that frame outdoor pools. From separation, we now have a collection of people, brought together as a community, for ceremonious activity. After the long pilgrimage, cleansed and prepared, we are ready to spiritually journey on our own. The spa garden is the last stop. It’s a field of hills with small buildings embodying different spa cultures, removing the otherness that the luxury western spa, or any individual form, can create by producing a multitude of familiarities that draw one in while also creating exposure to the new. At the center we have the main sauna, that has a small outlook that brings one to overlook the surrounding contexts with a sense of newfound clarity, and thus punctuating the end of their journey. This phase is really about exploration at one’s own accord, setting individual intentions and reaping the rewards of their pilgrimage. All along the journey, one is rigorously oriented through this liminal corridor, filled with basins, tubs and showers of varying intimacies, encouraging to cleanse before and after different activities as well as exposing them to the presence of a variety of cultures to prepare for the spa garden.