An open international competition is being held to design a guesthouse and spa offering blue-clay treatments in rural western Latvia
The contest, for developer SRED Global, seeks ‘eco-friendly and cost-effective’ proposals for a new single-storey guesthouse and spa in the Baltic state’s Kurzeme region
The project aims to promote environmentally aware ‘eco-tourism’ in the country, which was ranked the second most green in the world by Yale and Columbia universities.
According to the brief: ‘The Blue Clay Country Spa architecture competition, in partnership with SRED Global real estate developers, is tasking participants with presenting designs for a countryside guest house that would specialise in providing health treatments using this unique and naturally occurring organic product.
‘The winning designs will be considered for construction, and should focus on eco-friendly and cost-effective building techniques that will set a positive example of green building practice, and further popularise eco-tourism in Latvia.’
With around 54 per cent of its land covered in forest, Latvia is home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes rare black storks, otters, beaver, lynx, and wolves; as well as large numbers of deer, wild boar, elk and red fox. Protected wildlife zones account for approximately a fifth of the country.
Blue clay contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, silver, nitrogen, zinc, manganese and copper, and has been used for healing and beauty treatments for centuries. The naturally occurring material is claimed to reduce stress, improve metabolism, increase blood circulation and combat pathogens.
Blue clay is naturally abundant in Latvia’s Kurzeme region where the winning scheme may be constructed. The remote contest site is surrounded by forest and overlooks a lake.
Proposals for the guesthouse should include two bedrooms and a living room, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. The spa building must meanwhile feature at least two therapy rooms alongside a sauna, hot tub and dining area.
Designs should also include staff accommodation and storage areas as well as an optional farm, fruit garden and children’s playground. No underground construction is allowed.
The winning team is set to be announced 8 March and will receive a £9,000 prize. There will also be a second prize of £4,900, a third place prize of £1,600, a student prize and green prize worth £400 each, and six honourable mentions.
All prize-winning and commended designs will be considered for construction by SRED Global, which is planning to commence the project in 2017-2018.
The registration deadline is 11.59am local time on 25 January and submissions must be completed by 11.59am local time on 15 February.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Room D, 17/F
Billion Plaza 2
10 Cheung Yue Street
Lai Chi Kok
John Paul Rysavy, competition judge and senior associate at SHoP Architects
What will you be looking for in the winning scheme for the Blue Clay Country Spa?
Selected entries should be thoughtful and considerate in crafting an argument according to a variety of concerns specific to the spa and its program, including public and private spatial relationships respective to the spa experience, sensibility to materiality and tactility particular to blue clay and its tradition, and tactful positioning within the Latvian landscape.
Why is an ideas contest important to delivering a high-quality solution for the rural site?
An ideas competition is important in understanding the multifaceted and various opportunities of a project and site. In a project such as this, each submission brings unique, uncurated insight, imagination, research, and perspective, to a rural context where local precedent is limited.
What sort of architects are you hoping will participate?
We hope to receive submissions from inspired architects and designers, of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and training.
Which other recent guest house and spa projects from around the world have you been impressed by?
Perhaps the most obvious projects that come to mind are Herzog and de Meuron’s Naturbad Riehen or Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals, not by any means due to formal aspiration, but rather because of a tactful understanding and implementation of respective spa program. These projects recall cultural and material sensibilities of for instance the Ryukan and Onsen tradition in Japan, or the Finnish sauna in Finland.