Architects: BaO Architects
Location: Gansu, China
Architects: BaO Architects / Benjamin Beller
Area: 250.0 sqm
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Courtesy of BaO Architects
From the architect. Split bathhouse
The project is split in two distinct buildings, one for men, one for women, that are linked in the middle by a shared space in the form of a greenhouse that utilizes passive solar energy. This “public” gathering space can be completely opened on both sides to become a half-inside/half-outside buffer zone and to permit users to circulate in, through and enter or exit the building from multiple routes. Using the two bathing wings as structural walls, the generous spaces of the greenhouse were built for a very low cost with local materials and techniques.
The two inverted blocks, with their roofs springing out from the central greenhouse, contain a green and a yellow bathing space for men and women. Each of them is organized along a sequence of entrance, where one change shoes or access bathrooms, locker room with washbasins and changing facilities, and a shower space containing 12 shower heads each. A full-length window strip simultaneously brings light into the spaces and permits proper cross ventilation and steam extraction. The volumes are intentionally completely opened with simple details in order to guaranty easy maintenance and good hygiene of the spaces.
BaO’s intention of creating public spaces all around what had to be highly intimate buildings resulted in setting both shower blocks on a plinth higher than the site’s level. The new leveling permitted the creation of long benches surrounding the buildings that simultaneously furnish the greenhouse with seating on both sides. Next to the main entrance, both the roof and the plinth extend to shelter a small laundry space and outdoor water point. The cantilevering roof protects from rain and sun as well as creating a space of encounter for women and children.
The facades of the buildings are conceived as active assets advocating public expression and a playful relationship with architecture. The blind walls surrounding the men and women blocks are covered with blackboard that enables to write information, signage or more simply to permit the school children to draw on, write on, play on and play with the building. The whole envelop of the bathhouse is thus continuously transforming and evolving with the interaction and creativity of the children.
Since neither public water supply nor drainage systems existed on-site, the whole bathhouse had to be designed as an autonomous entity. After being pumped from underground in a 8 meters deep well, the water is stored in a 20m3 tank that either supplies the roof solar collectors panels that provide free hot water at least 6 months a year or the boiler when solar energy is not enough.
Heated and used in the showers and the washbasins, the wastewater then exits the building through different routes to reach a series of rhizofiltration basins.
Those bamboo planted areas treat and purify the wastewater thanks to a bacterial fauna living in the rhizomes that eradicate microbes and clean grey water before it is either assimilated by the plant or return to the ground.The building is thus surrounded and camouflaged by the round-shape bamboo planted filters that enhance the sense of intimacy and completely redefine a site that used to be dry and dusty. The “green nest” provides a rich array of gathering spaces encircling the building with furniture, benches, playgrounds, and shaded areas that participate in making the Split Bathhouse an enjoyable space for children and the community at large.