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Pawel Danielak - "Slóð - a spa resort in Iceland".

01 of June '21
Technical data
Type: master's thesis
Year of defense: 2020
Author: Pawel Danielak

Dr. Marian Fikus, prof. nadzw. Poznan University of Technology

Work submitted for the competition
"Best Diploma Architecture"

Since Roman times, people around the world have used the therapeutic properties of water. Nowadays, baths are not only places for relaxation, but also for social integration. They are also important places for tourism: baths in Budapest, Iceland or Japan are part of the local culture. The master's thesis was created as a response to the international competition "Thermal Blue" (organized by uni.xyz), in which the challenge was to design a spa center with associated functions on a hot river in Iceland. It is an architecture whose main task is to engage in a dialogue with the landscape.



© Pawel Danielak


The projected location - Hveragerði - is a small town in the southwestern part of Iceland, located in a geothermal area with high temperatures. The town's name translates as "place of hot springs." Geothermal energy has always been a key part of the economy of Hveragerði, known for its greenhouse crops and residents enjoying good health and well-being. The town is relatively young, as the oldest houses here were built in 1929. At the time, towns were located along Iceland's coastline - Hveragerði can be considered unique in that it was built around an area of hot springs, far from any harbor.

lokalizacja aksonometria

left: location; right: axonometry

© Pawel Danielak

search for ideas

The island's processes, tectonic movements, geysers, caves, the earth's crust, vibration diagrams, natural shapes resulting from nature - these were the main buzzwords that accompanied the author while developing the idea.


1. building design or an attempt to define the character of the place?

The step preceding the design was to look at the most important assets of the town. It is an important point on the tourist map of Iceland due to its unique natural conditions, primarily a hot river running along picturesque mountain gorges. The path leading to the river runs through the designated study area. The main idea of the designed facility was to combine five dependent aspects: the path, the slope, the river, as well as materials and activation of the area. The combination of these elements creates a bridge-path-building relationship.

plan land useplan land useplan land use

site development plan

© Pawel Danielak

2 Path - composition layout

The location of the building in the study area is the result of an analysis of the view axis. This axis runs through the existing path, leading to the main landscape dominant - the hot river. The relationship of the block with the surrounding landscape creates a spatial composition, emphasizing the relationship between man and the environment.

3 Escarpment - bridge

The four-meter height difference between the escarpment and the terrain was the impetus for creating a continuation of the path while hiding the function of the building underneath. This created a bridge-path relationship and two independent zones. These are the place of tranquility - the sauna zone located inside the building, and the public zone - the path leading to the hiking trail located above the designed building.

4 Volcanic processes - the body

The main inspiration for the design of the building's body was not only the landscape, but also the volcanic processes occurring underground. The designed building is located in a seismically active area. The form of the bridge, inspired by the sliding system of tectonic plates, was divided into two cuboids staggered in relation to each other. In them the architecture of the building has been placed. This reinforces the building-path-bridge relationship mentioned earlier.



© Pawel Danielak

5. raw landscape - raw material

Achieving a homogeneous monolithic character of the establishment was possible thanks to the use of a single material. Concrete was used both on the facade and inside the building. The heart of the project is the exit from the building to the hot river. It gives the impression of a dark cave from which the outside world emerges. The coherent form, sparing in its expression, emphasizes the minimalist character of the building, while at the same time blending in with the harsh landscape of Iceland.

6 Perception

Due to the nature of the site, whose most valuable asset is the natural landscape, it was decided to have a simple building without unnecessary detail. The theme of the project was to establish a dialogue between man and nature. The architecture of the building acts as a foreground for the said dialogue, blends into the landscape, does not draw the observer's attention away from what is most important - the landscape.

wizualizacja pathwizualizacja pathwizualizacja path

visualization of the path

© Pawel Danielak

structural layout

A single-story structure was designed, partially located underground. A structural module of 900 by 900 centimeters was adopted.


The entire building, due to the unevenness of the terrain and numerous earthquakes, was designed on prefabricated concrete beams of 70 by 70 centimeters, the weight of which is carried by foundation piles of fi 100 centimeters.

przekrój B-Bprzekrój B-Bprzekrój B-B

cross-section B-B

© Pawel Danielak


In a seismically active area, it is recommended to design a ventilated basement. The height of the rooms where the installation pipes leading from the technical rooms are placed is 110 centimeters. In the next stages, manholes in the floor to the rooms will be designed, after consultation with industry specialists.


Illustrations: © Author

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