Floatation therapy, sensory deprivation … what’s it all about? We take five minutes with Nick Dunin of Beyond Rest and Fiona Dunin of FMD Architects, to learn how “Sacred Geometry” design shaped their newly-launched facility in Collingwood.
June 16th, 2017
Sacred Geometry, floatation therapy, FMD Architects
Tell me how you first became involved in the idea of a float centre.
Nick: I had been to a conference overseas, and happened to meet someone who was just so charismatic, and ‘with it’. My brother Ben and I were really intrigued, and found out that his ‘super power’, if you like, was daily floating sessions – which we didn’t really know much about. Long story short, we tried it and felt immediate improvements in our physical and mental health. We quickly realised that there was a huge potential for it in Australia. So Ben and I started the business in 2012, and we brought our sister Fiona on board to create the design of the spaces.
Fiona: I had helped Nick set up the first facility in Perth, though that first one was more straightforward in design, putting pods into rectangular rooms. When I went and tried it, I realised what a unique experience it was. So from there, we decided that we needed to develop something that expressed what you can achieve with floating, through design.
How can it help to improve your mental health?
Nick: This process helps pump out dopamine and endorphins within the brain, which enables you to combat stress. The magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant, which helps you get a good night’s sleep. And what the tanks also do is bring your brainwaves down to a calming theta frequency – what you normally find between wakefulness and sleep. This is a state that people try to achieve while meditating, but can be quite difficult to get to.
Tell me how Sacred Geometry influenced the space.
Fiona: We had been very interested in the idea of Sacred Geometry, and Nick went to a talk by an architect in Europe who specialises in it, called Michael Rice. These concepts sparked an urge for more curvaceous spaces at Beyond Rest, which reflected the natural environment. So we started using Sacred Geometry proportions to our spaces. This lead to the shape of the pod rooms themselves, which are the exact proportions of a hen’s egg.
Nick: It’s all about taking inspiration from patterns found in every living thing, looking at the Fibonacci sequence, for instance, and finding ways to apply that natural logic at Beyond Rest. The way the centre is designed is ultimately to create a sense of awe and relaxation, to help calmness descend in a natural way.
Was it difficult to find someone that would take on all of those curves and detailing?
Fiona: We had a really great carpenter on board who was quite interested in the project. The first time we had tackled those curves in Prahran, that was a challenge for the plasterer, but by the time we did Collingwood, the team was familiar with what we could and couldn’t do with the curves. And they really are fundamental to the success of that space.
What role does light play in the design?
Fiona: The lighting was critical. It was something that we realised in the making of the Prahran centre, we found that we really didn’t need that much lighting. We just wanted it to be indirectly lit, very mood oriented – almost to under-light the space. You come out of the float tanks so relaxed and you become hyper aware of your senses, so the space needed to be quite serene, to allow you to stay within yourself for as long as you need to. It became more about washing the walls, so that there was no element of glare when you left the pod rooms.
How did you approach the design of the wind-down area?
Fiona: Sometimes after a float people really want to talk about it, but others just want to sit on their own. Other times we have couples in that just want to sit together before heading out. So that chill out space was tricky to get right, having to navigate the needs of all those different personality types. And that area is quite particular to Beyond Rest – from what I’ve seen, no other float centres really put a focus on that. But I think it’s important in being able to build our community.
What is the Australian public’s perception about floating, and do you see that changing?
Nick: When we opened in 2012, there was no such thing as dedicated floatation centres. There were old float tanks in the back of day spas, or people’s houses, and that’s it. But from 2015 onwards, we’ve seen a rise in the local industry. I think the longer it’s around, the more people will start to realise that it can almost be a part of life – like getting a haircut once a month. Something you do for yourself.
Did you draw on customer feedback to help inform the Collingwood space?
Fiona: Not so much from customers, but definitely from the staff. And I suppose, I float too, so I spend a lot of time watching how people behave in the space. There were a lot of conversations between Nick and the team about how they wanted people to relate to each other and the space.
Can you tell us what it’s like to work with someone that you’re related to, as a client?
Fiona: The most important thing is that we respect each other’s professional stance. Nick’s trusted me to do what I think is right, and we treat each other in a very professional manner so it’s very much beyond the feeling of working with a sibling. We all have a different role to play in the business – I’m on the design side, Nick’s in charge of the business and marketing, and Ben, our other brother is in the sales and operational side of things – so we all bring something different to the table. It’s worked well!
Have you thought about ways to keep the brand aesthetic as the business expands?
Fiona: Well as far as the design goes, we’re developing a guide for franchisees, so that they have a good idea of how to do this, and we maintain a strong language. The egg-shaped pods are a constant, but we do try and bring in something that is unique to each location.
We’re always looking at what we can do to represent a sense of locality – whether it’s through light fittings, or cladding, or whether we work out of a warehouse versus a shop front. At Prahran, we developed these beautiful lights from perforated plumber’s pipe, in collaboration with Volker Haug, which casts these great shadows. That was essential in creating dynamism there, as it’s a very white, simple space. Whereas at Collingwood, it’s a more industrial feel and scale, and quite rigorous in its geometry.
How often do you float? And how does it affect you?
Nick: I normally get in at least twice a week. Whenever I come back from a big overseas trip, I always try to float – it completely gets rid of your jetlag. But we get anyone and everyone in. From elite AFL stars that have changed their whole routine to incorporate a session the night before a game, to musical performers – the cast of The Book of Mormon have been in, it’s great to help them get into a healthier sleep routine.
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