The Retreat Hotel, Iceland: outstanding design

The Retreat Hotel Photo: The Retreat Hotel

Shop window to the Blue Lagoon

The Retreat Hotel at Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s first five-star hotel, lies in a mossy lava field and has been awarded for its outstanding design.

The milky blue water has perfect bathing temperature. Between 38 and 39 degrees Celsius. Where the thermal water meets the mossy lava rock, a white edge has formed. As if someone had drawn an exact line to the mainland. Steam rises from the source, refracts the light at its countless water particles and creates a soft focus over the rugged rocky landscape. The natural wonder not far from Reykjavik gets a new, exclusive showcase through the architecture of The Retreat Hotel.

Natural wonder for millions

There is no other place to think about peace and relaxation in the Blue Lagoon in the UNESCO Global Geopark. The volcanic thermal bath, which National Geographic named one of the 25 greatest natural wonders of the world, is now one of the most frequented sights on the island. In 2017, 1.3 million visitors bathed in the mineral- and pebble-rich water.

The Retreat Hotel

Architectural landmarks

Architectural landmarks in the untouched nature of the Far North are currently in vogue. On the opposite coast, in a Norwegian glacier fjord, the architecture studio Snøhetta is currently building a spectacular hotel. And further inland, 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Dorte Mandrups The Whale, a new visitor centre and architectural wonder, is under construction.

With the construction of The Retreat Hotel, a new oasis has been created on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which is exclusively available to hotel and day guests. The architecture of Iceland’s first five-star hotel creates a fine balance between the building and the surrounding landscape.

The building sits deep in the lava rock, which on the one hand borders the lagoon and on the other hand forms the interior walls of the spa,

explain those responsible at Basalt Architects, who were responsible for the overall architectural concept.

Award winning interior concept

The Retreat Hotel has 62 rooms and five exclusive suites. It was awarded the Ahead Europe Hospitality Award for its well thought-out interior concept. In addition to Basalt Architects, Design Group Italia was primarily responsible for the interior design.

Basically, we wanted to create a continuity between nature, the interior and the exterior,

explained chief designer Sigurdur Thorsteinsson in an interview.

The resort’s interior design makes use of colors and materials that refer to the striking lava landscape, the bright green moss and the light blue water of the immediate surroundings. The haptic surfaces in the interiors also relate to the rugged natural formations in the exterior spaces.

The Retreat Hotel

We brought lava blocks into the building and used them as building material or as furniture,

says Sigurdur Thorsteinsson, Design Group Italia

According to Thorsteinsson, the retreat aims to create a connection between human and nature, as he says:

Apart from recreation, we wanted to give our guests something else: more respect for nature and a better understanding of what nature actually is, and the realization of how wonderful it is.

The Retreat Hotel

Sustainability in structure and design

The outstanding lighting design of the complex is conceptually divided into three areasthe hotel, the spa and the lagoon. The different requirements of the individual zones were based on a common idea: to preserve the charm of Icelandic daylight, while the artificial light energises, relaxes and captivates.

“Light as well as the absence of light becomes a revitalizing experience”, the approach is described, which is called Human Centric Lighting. The orchestration of light follows the circadian rhythm and, according to the concept, must under no circumstances contribute to light pollution of the Icelandic night sky. The designers of Liska and iGuzzini have consistently used lamps with maximum energy efficiency.

The Retreat Hotel

The hotel is operated one hundred percent with renewable energy. The Svartsengi Resource Park geothermal power plant is conveniently located around the corner. The Blue Lagoon only came into being when it was built in 1978. However, it took twelve years before the locals dared to bathe in the thermal water for the first time

Text: Gertraud Gerst
Photos: The Retreat at Blue Lagoon