Italy: The spectacular hotel spa that appears to defy physics

Rome: In a country known for its eye-catching designs, this incredible new spa fits right in. The wellness centre – the latest addition to Hotel Hubertus in the Dolomites of South Tyrol, Italy – is something of an architectural masterpiece made up of a series of ‘huts’ that appear to defy the laws of physics.

Some of them are positioned on the underside of the structure and give the appearance of being dramatically anchored upside down. And the entire two-storey ‘Heaven and Hell’ spa is breathtakingly cantilevered, so it looks like it’s ‘floating between sky and earth’. But it’s actually supported 15m above the ground by pillars clad in larch wood.

In a nod to the quirky design, the hotel says that the spa is ‘turning wellness upside down – quite literally’, while the designers say that ‘the force of gravity seems to vanish to make way for unexpected scenarios’.

The wellness centre is something of an architectural masterpiece made up of a series of ‘huts’ that appear to defy gravity

To access the wellness space, you cross a suspended walkway from the hotel that takes you to the upper level of the spa – known as ‘Heaven’ – where you’ll find two whirlpool baths, showers and a changing room, all framed by glass windows that offer a ‘stunning’ vista of the valley and mountains.

Descend to the lower level – ‘Hell’ – and you’ll need to shed your swimsuit and bathrobe – it’s a nude area. Here, ‘things really heat up’, the hotel reveals. Pampering amenities in ‘Hell’ include two saunas, a third whirlpool, an ice room and more ‘heavenly’ views of the peaks.

Taking their cue from the landscape, the pitched roofs of the huts are inspired by ‘traditional mountain cabins that adorn the gentle high-Alpine meadows’.

The colour palette and materials used in the design are similarly intended to harmonise with the mountain scenery – the steel structure is clad with brown-toned aluminium panels and its flooring is made from beige ceramic and oiled white oak.

The spa, which can accommodate 27 guests, is the work of the Italian architecture firm Noa, which has named the project the ‘Hub of Huts’. Noa created a spectacular cantilevered ‘Sky Pool’ swimming pool for the hotel back in 2016. With that design, the studio set out to merge the pool with the mountain landscape, ‘mirroring the clouds and framing panoramic views’.

Commenting on the Hub of Huts concept, Noa founder Lukas Rungger says: ‘The essence of this project is the overturning of horizons, with the resulting effect of wonder for the observer.

‘If you think about it, however, changing perspectives is a common exercise in wellness areas, where, depending on whether you are lying in the sauna, sitting in the relaxation area, or diving headfirst into the pool, the views are constantly changing.’ It’s not the only spa at the hotel – its Alpenreych Park wellness centre is filled with seven saunas, six heated pools, relaxation spaces and a variety of beauty treatment rooms.

In addition to its outstanding wellness facilities, the family-owned hotel, which has been run by the Gasser family since the 1970s, has 64 rooms and suites. Set just outside the municipality of Olang, the luxury retreat is conveniently located in the popular Kronplatz ski area – depending on the season, guests can busy themselves with hiking, mountaineering, biking, ski and tobogganing excursions, snowshoeing, and snowmobile rides.