Dark Spa

Neil Dusheiko Architects, Cambridge, 2019



Photography by Edmund Sumner     Download Original

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The Dark Spa is an outbuilding situated in a landscaped garden in South Cambridge

It’s form and materiality takes it’s cue from the adjacent black timber C19th coach houses and stables. In order to not draw attention to itself, we chose to clad it in charred black timber which absorbs light and shadow and is also extremely durable and resilient to all weather conditions.

We used timber cladding inside and outside of the building. The interior walls are clad in dark Sapele timber and floors are made of natural black slate. A mirror is strategically placed in the exercise room, giving a sense that the garden continues beyond.

We provided substantial insulation achieving u-values of 0.14 W/m2 K for the floor and walls, and 0.18 W/m2 K for the roof. We used low energy LED lighting within the outbuilding which indirectly illuminates the spaces to give a relaxing ambient glow. As the spa would be used for shorter periods of time, we used electric underfloor heating which can warm the space quickly and efficiently compared to a wet underfloor heating system. The green roof allows the spa to blend into the garden which can be seen from the main house.

The Dark Spa is purely there for exercise and relaxation, housing a sauna, Japanese soaking tub, shower, gym and meditation room. There is a fold-down bed concealed within the timber cladding for guests.

The skylights allow for views of the sky and dappled light to fall from the surrounding trees in the shower and the changing room. There is an inward focus here, and the feeling we wanted to create was a sense of relaxation and detachment to the everyday to allow one to relax and unwind completely. It is a space for the elements, light, stone, water and wood.

Annual CO2 emissions data was not provided.


  • Begun: Mar 2018
  • Completed: Sep 2019
  • Floor area: 54m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £175,000
  • Funding: private
  • Tender date: Sep 2017
  • Procurement: JCT Intermediate CDP
  • Address: Great Shelford, Cambridge, CB22, United Kingdom

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