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Indesign Magazine
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What is health tourism?

While most travellers search for the ultimate destination, others search for the ultimate journey. In one of Bangkok’s busiest transport hubs, Orbit Design Studio augments the experience of being ‘in-transit’ with a premium mind-body fitness centre. Transience has never felt so good.

  • Overlooking the cardio and free weights area is an impressive feature climbing wall.

  • The VASD swimming pool and aqua lounge is reminiscent of an ice cave – the perfect antidote to Thailand’s hot weather.

  • The Himalayan salt chamber, which helps develop the breathing system and restore respiratory health.

  • The café and lounge features the typical gym and spa refreshments alongside a series of co-working pods with an internet touch-down alcove for the nomadic professional.



BY

February 9th, 2018


Yes, you’ve read correctly – health tourism. It’s the latest in what is a multiplicity of movements currently directing the luxury travel genre. ‘Health’ or ‘wellness tourism’ is essentially characterised as travel for the purpose of promoting health and wellbeing through physical, psychological, and/or spiritual activities.

As far as luxe travel destinations go – hotels, resorts, spas and so on – this approach is already well-established. But can we say the same about the journey? It’s no secret that travel can be strenuous – punishing even – and here, designers have a major opportunity to drastically reimagine how a traveller or tourist might experience their journey from A to B.

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Designers have a major opportunity to drastically reimagine how a traveller or tourist might experience their journey from A to B.
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Located in one of central Bangkok’s busiest transportation hubs, the Virgin Active Siam Discovery by Orbit Design Studio (ODS) has been purpose-built to augment our in-transit experience, equipped with everything a traveller might need to feel ‘well’.

After being greeted at the reception desk, users ascend through a double-height opening via a pair of escalators. Encircling these escalators is a galaxy of health, wellness and working facilities; among them group exercise, boxing and yoga studios, an activewear boutique, café/lounge, co-working pods, internet touch-down alcove, and sleeping pods.

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Just one level above lies a whole new stratosphere of feel-good services to cater to almost every fit-freak niche imaginable.
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But ODS hasn’t stopped there. Just one level above lies a whole new stratosphere of feel-good services to cater to almost every fit-freak niche imaginable. A climbing wall looms over the escalator void; neighbouring this is a cardio/free weights area, and a pool and hydro spa. Flanking the pool, a three-dimensional active grid structure for functional and high-intensity training. To finish, a hypoxic, low-oxygen altitude studio.

For those looking to sweat it out, the changing suites are the final frontier in stress-less tourism. Here, steam, ice and salt rooms complete the mental and physical defrag. “Rather than representing a purely function-driven arrangement of fitness equipment, we have created unique and personal experiences, which excite and activate all the senses in the mind and body,” says ODS’s head of design, Simon Drogemuller. “The space is meant to be playful, social, energetic and calming, and encourage experimentation: a laboratory for health and fitness.”

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“We have created unique and personal experiences, which excite and activate all the senses in the mind and body.” – Simon Drogemuller, Orbit Design
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Though the health and fitness services are beautifully integrated into the space, the industrial, interior and product undertaking by ODS uses each facet within the built environment to further reinforce the organic connectivity concept of the space.

“The design concept for the club was ‘the cut section,’” says Drogemuller, “which emphasises the connectivity of the floors, walls and ceiling, just like a section drawing that reveals the connections at a glance. From this point, we extruded and extended the boundaries to create spaces, resulting in all club floors being interconnected, which brings a great feeling of unity to the space.”

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“We extruded and extended the boundaries to create spaces.”
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On the upper floor, the most striking feature is the looming feature-climbing wall. The design of the climbing wall; its shape, materials and lighting-effects; are all inspired by an iceberg, “a concept which is also carried through to the adjacent swimming pool and Aqua Lounge,” Drogemuller explains. “The irregularly folded white ceiling and perimeter ice blue lighting create an ice-cave-like atmosphere, the perfect antidote to Thailand’s hot weather.” Also of note is the Mind & Body Studio, which uses rear projection to create a fully immersive and interactive environment.

Here, travellers can truly find respite – in whatever form they fancy, and within a truly dynamic transitory environment. The Virgin Active Siam Discovery space really does achieve that perfect equilibrium between mind and body – an elusive zen-state that seems to be the ultimate destination in the health tourist’s journey.

This project originally appeared in issue #71 of Indesign, the ‘design pharmacy’ issue. You can also read about the state of hospital design, also from the issue, with Tonya Hinde of Billiard Leece Partnership.

Photography by Owen Raggett.

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