Saco Lake Baths

January 2014  |  Second-Year Studio II, Spring 2014 Semester

3rd Place Prize, National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) Competition and Studio Project Award, Round 1

In collaboration with Carolina Tamayo

Saco Lake is located in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, near the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Also close by is a lodge catering to hardcore hikers and overnighting families alike. 

These baths strive to be a destination for all hikers, from the intense to the casual. Because of this they are placed on either side of a new trail connecting the Crawford Trail (a leg of the Appalachian Trail) to Elephant Head, a nearby rock formation and lookout point. The northern pavilion of the baths contains restrooms and changing rooms, while the southern pavilion consists of the three baths - the frigidarium (cold), the tepidarium (warm),  and the caldarium (hot), as well as the mechanical room. In this way those who enter and exit the baths always witness the beauty - and severity - of nature. In the winter, for example, visitors must dash between the pavilions.

The baths are also a bit raw in their construction. They are made of simple materials: concrete masonry unit walls, poured concrete floors, and a wooden roof, with some glazing to let in a dappled sunlight. The baths make use of the loadbearing capabilities of the concrete to begin to set into the slope of the site. The site we chose was also within a clearing surrounded by trees. Our desire with this relationship between the siting and the materiality was to give the baths the character and appearance of ancient ruins, or as if they had been in this place for many centuries. We thought this was appropriate considering the rustic setting.

Ultimately our goal was composed of two key directives: to reduce things down to their essentials, so as to heighten the experience of being in nature, and to make the act of bathing a kind of cleansing sacrament, as opposed to a hoighty-toighty “day at the spa.”

Carolina and I were honored to be chosen as recipients of the National Concrete Masonry Association Competition (Round One) third-place prize for our work on this project.