The Open Workshop

The Open Workshop

Toronto, ON, CA


Steam Stratum — Baltic Thermal Pool Park

Geologic Building

Steam Stratum taps into the rich geologic history of Latvia and the presence of natural thermal baths. Conceived of as an extrusion of the sedimentary rock below, the building is organized into various layers, or strata. These layers are placed to separate and connect the differential programs in a precise manner — lifting to create higher ceiling heights below, or descending to connect directly to adjacent programs. As the topographic cut moves through the building it interacts with the different levels to allow for seamless navigation through the linear resort. Despite its appearance, the building is primarily glazed to allow for uninterrupted views of the surrounding natural landscape. To provide privacy, a series of vertical stone fins quarried from a local mine, are organized to line the glazed façade and provide the simultaneous sense of a monolithic stone that is rooted within its natural environment while being porous. Moving through the layers of the building, one flows through different strata of rock and air — carved out cave-like spaces that produced a contemporary sense of a primitive relationship to the earth.

Steam Park

The thermal baths are organized into one fluctuating datum that is carved into an overall terraced topography. This stone platform can be flooded to differential heights to allow for different pool sizes and configurations to enable flexibility during different seasons. Seating, movement paths, stairs, and bar areas are carved into the same topography to allow for an uninterrupted panoramic view of the city and sea. The depth of the pools creates natural temperature differentials and associated amounts of steam. The ceiling of the baths has a precise stepped carving to move the steam to various areas in the ‘cave’ to provide privacy and concealment for more intimate spa programs above. A series of skylights are deployed across the roof plane to exhaust this steam from the building and create a steam park on the roof. The atmospheric qualities of an ephemeral enclosure are leveraged to create a series of soft divisions along the roof park. When the skylights are closed, the ceiling plane is configured with areas of sharp topographic changes to cause a ‘rain’ drip curtains around the pools, providing a different type of soft enclosure formed from the atmospherics of a hydrological change of state.

Threshold + Consolidation

Steam Stratum is a proposal for a civic building that consolidates the various programs for the thermal bath and park and structures them within a line. This line serves as a threshold between the city of Liepaja and the Baltic Sea — allowing for a public as well as natural interface between the city and the sea. The building is located to minimize distribution to existing trees as well acts as a porous boundary. Parking is consolidated within the building to preserve the natural environment and minimize foot traffic on the site. The local streets Robežu iela and Kalèju iela act as alignments for extending the grid of the city into the site and marking major entry points for the building as well as access into the park. This path that stems from the city unbraids into various experiences that moves one from the city, through the building and eventually to the park and beach. Further, the park moves into the building in a series of courtyards, which contain replanted trees from the site, blurring the boundary between interior and exterior.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Liepaja, LV
My Role: Primary Architect
Additional Credits: Project Team:
Neeraj Bhatia
Cesar Lopez
Blake Stevenson
Awarded: Honorable Mention