Bathing used to be fun and social. Going back to Roman times, people would gather in the baths to talk, do business, socialize and other things we can't talk about on a family website.
In San Francisco, people had the fabulous Sutro baths, not just a swimming pool but seven different pools of fresh and salt water in different temperatures. It was huge, expensive to operate, and put out of business in the polio scare in the '50s.
Now, the eponymously named Nell Waters wants to bring the public bath back to San Francisco with SOAK. It's not as elaborate as the Sutro Baths; it's actually pretty modest and built out of shipping containers. She writes in her Kickstarter pitch:
The decision to build into shipping containers was as much about limiting our reliance on heavy infrastructure as about having a durable and good looking aesthetic. In most urban enclaves shipping containers are synonymous with creative pop-up businesses. Quick to retrofit, easy to move, and inexpensive to occupy, they are less like food trucks, moving all the time, and more like medium-term projects lasting between two to five years at one location.
This is not your quiet yoga retreat either. Cucumber eyepads not allowed.
At SOAK, there are no silence gongs. There's no green tea, and there's no new age music. Our goal is to change the conversation about wellness. Think of it as the Anti-Spa.
Indeed, it wants to attract an anti-spa crowd with their idea of Healthy Hedonism.
Turns out there are a lot of us who make an effort to be healthy but don't want to be dogmatic or ideological about it. Healthy Hedonists enjoy what comes after the challenge - sleeping in, bourbon, espresso - as much as the run, ride, hike itself. And we know there are a lot of you out there!
To top it all off, it is designed by Blaine Merker of ReBar, the inventors of Park(ing) Day. ARUP has done the energy math to figure out that the whole thing can run on solar panels. Lots more at SOAK and on Kickstarter. Found on Gizmag.
Wayback Machine: Public baths for Toronto
Nell Waters is not alone in dreaming of the rebirth of public bathing; My final thesis in architecture school at the University of Toronto was a public bath for Toronto, heated by the warm water outflow from the (now closed) Hearn Generating Station.
It was a giant glass roofed resort hotel warmed by waste heat. You had a tepidarium warm pool, a caldarium hot pool, and you swam out from the frigidarium right into Lake Ontario. You can see more drawings, all done oldschool with rapidograph on mylar, on Tumblr here.