To the Bath Cave: A Thermal Bath Gets a Modern Translucent-Concrete Grotto

In the German city of Bad Staffelstein, a manmade “cave” of sorts beckons leisure-seekers to a thermal bath fed by Bavaria’s hottest and most powerful saltwater spring. Obermaintherme is a 15,000-square-meter (161,500-square-foot) bath hall whose pool previously boasted a natural-stone cave feature with artificial palms for decades. But in recent years, the saltwater pool and other parts of the facility required upgrades. All images courtesy LUCEM GmbH Krieger Architekten Ingenieure took this opportunity to reenvision the grotto-like setting for bathers. Instead of a dated faux cave mimicking natural landscapes, the architects conceived a modernized structure that would still function as a cave by enclosing a portion of the pool to provide a semi-private sensory experience. But additionally, it would become a visual symbol for the center — a luminous salt crystal that seems to jut out of the water. The new cave is largely constructed with LUCEM, a concrete material that can closely resemble solid stone slabs. But at the click of a mouse or tap on a smartphone, color LED lighting transmits through the panels’ thousands of embedded fiber optics to reveal LUCEM’s translucency. In order to achieve this in a ...
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