Designful

Wellbeing

Banyan Tree Phuket
Banyan Tree Phuket

Wellbeing and sustainability, and the power of design to create spaces that allow for the flourishing of both of those things, was the essence of a virtual talk hosted by Kohler Co. and Dezeen.

Representatives from Zaha Hadid ArchitectsBanyan Tree, and Kohler Co.came together to discuss the topic, which is increasingly important for today’s designers of spaces, whether hotel or home, as more and more of us seek sanctuary and refuge in private spaces, value calm and tranquility, and look for mindfulness through simple rituals such as bathing. 

Hamburg River Promenade Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Photo by Piet Niemann
Hamburg River Promenade Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Photo by Piet Niemann

Designing sustainably with water

More than two billion people lack access to safe drinking water at home, and design must acknowledge the relationship between access to water and sustainability. Water plays a significant role in design, and forward-thinking design must incorporate sustainable practices, drawing inspiration from nature — often through biophilic design principles.

“Valuing and recycling water has always played a central part in our designs,” Carlos Bausá Martínez, Sustainability Team Lead at Zara Hadid Architects, explained during the talk, going on to emphasize how important it is for the firm to combine high-end wellness with responsible water use.

Ideas around water often influence the Zaha Hadid team’s designs; their design of the Roca London Gallery was inspired by water erosion and the movement of water, but a standout example of sustainable design around water is the firm’s London Aquatics Centre, which was the London Olympics swimming venue in 2012. It met very strict sustainability requirements, including the roof being designed to maximize rainwater harvesting. The building’s design also incorporates systems that have cut almost a third of its carbon emissions, which is a central focus for all new architecture at every level.

Aquatics Centre Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Photo by Hufton+Crow
Aquatics Centre Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Photo by Hufton+Crow

At Banyan Tree’s newest property, Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, in Bali, a “no walls, no doors” concept means villas have been designed to put nature front and center in the guest experience while also allowing for water conservation. “Good design can elevate what nature has to offer,” said Woon Hoe Lee, Banyan Tree’s Executive Director of Wellbeing, during his virtual presentation.

Banyan Tree has increased the proportion of water that is recycled across its hotels to more than 30% and has planted over half a million trees in the last four years.

Banyan Tree Phuket
Banyan Tree Phuket

Water for wellbeing

Being close to water—be it spas, pools, and bathhouses or reservoirs and rivers—improves our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, no matter which country you’re in. Correlating this physical space to our overall health is a big part of Kohler Co.’s Perspective of the Year: Dimensions of Wellbeing, which considers wellbeing as a holistic concept.

“It’s widely understood that water has a profound and lasting influence on human behavior and mood. Water is a source of restoration, driving relaxation and calm, and a source of inspiration and innovation. And it’s an element at the core of the discussion around sustainable living,” said Ratish Namboothiry, Director of Innovation for Good and Sustainability at Kohler Co., who joined Lee and Martínez on the panel.

“Water, in particular, is one of the most precious resources, and not just for sustainability—research has shown that the simple act of being near coastal and marine environments can improve one's health, body, and mind. While our resorts immerse guests in the beauty of nature near lagoons and oceans, we’re careful with the way we build around them,” says Lee. “In the Maldives, our design decisions are centered on the goal of minimizing harm to the coral reef and conserving marine life. Similarly, our upcoming Banyan Tree Ilha Caldeira resort is near Africa’s largest marine reserve, home to Mozambique’s intact living corals and hawksbill sea turtles. Staying true to our commitment to the environment, the resort will be 100 percent solar-powered, while all water will be desalinated on the island itself.”

Banyan Tree Phuket
Banyan Tree Phuket

Connecting sustainability and wellness

The connection between the individual, nature, and looking after our wider environment has come to the fore over the last few years, and all the panelists are passionate about strengthening the connection between our own wellbeing and that of the planet.

“Sustainability comes from a connection to the local environment, and then trying to replicate it artificially using natural design principles,” explained Martínez. “When you align the two environments, the natural and the artificial, you improve the experience for the user.”

For Lee, the mission is “to democratize wellbeing.” As he explains, “To do that, we put nature at the center of it. We want to harness elements of nature, including water, to improve an individual's wellbeing. We also believe that conserving and restoring nature is critical to overall wellbeing.”

For Banyan Tree, sustainability is about more than creating spaces for calm, meditation, and restoration. The group is putting design policies and practices in place that consider the natural environment beyond the guest experience.

The future, it would seem, is about connectivity—between ourselves to nature, and individuals and the environment—and sharing our resources, not only water.

Banyan Tree Phuket
Banyan Tree Phuket