Words: Samuel Davison
In an era where health and wellbeing have become a top concern for city dwellers, a Berlin day spa has responded by creating a space that doesn’t just make you feel good – it makes you feel welcome. Within Tempodrom – a cultural venue in a concrete circus tent – I discover an important meeting place for the people of Berlin. Liquidrom transcends time to borrow from German tradition and emerge as a point in the city where solitude and socialising aren’t kept at arm’s length. It’s a modern take on a quintessential third place: the public bathhouse.
“The bathhouse borrows from both histories to present a day spa that echoes both a Turkish hammam and a Berlin nightclub.”
Liquidrom is located in Kreuzberg, close to the epicentre of Berlin’s Turkish community and at the heart of the artists’ quarter that drives the city’s evolving party scene. The bathhouse borrows from both histories to present a day spa that echoes both a Turkish hammam and a Berlin nightclub. Its structural weight mirrors the Brutalist architecture of the city, and its policy regarding nudity promotes the celebrated German tradition of freikörperkultur (free body culture). Reflecting the cultural fabric of the city, Liquidrom feels familiar and comfortable, especially for its band of regulars. It’s something that Liquidrom’s Radoslava Feschieva sees as central to the experience. “I strongly believe that modernisation takes place in all the different areas of people’s lives and what we at the Liquidrom try to implement is bringing this trend to urban spa culture as well.”
Audiences and brands are realising that social wellness is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle, and retail, hospitality and wellness environments are becoming more experience driven as a result. As the global population becomes rapidly more urban and our work habits increasingly digital, the need for social spaces has never been so important. Liquidrom is one of these private enterprises working towards a thriving wellness culture for their city. “Creating a spa culture is essential for people in the city as it provides the opportunity to draw the line between work and leisure and restore physical and emotional health.”
On my first visit I quickly realise that, like at Berlin’s best clubs, stripping off a few layers and raising a sweat is only the beginning of the participatory experience. As I make my way through labyrinthine hallways, past plunge pools, steam rooms and traditional saunas, to reach a central bar and restaurant, it becomes apparent that Liquidrom’s design facilitates movement that is social, just like a club. It’s not unusual to find yourself sharing a corner of the bar with somebody at the start of your visit only to return to their company in the Finnish sauna, naked and doused in honey, as you end your night with one of Liquidrom’s signature relaxation treatments, many of which involve food. The social element of Liquidrom is something Feschieva sees as “a sign of our openness to the world and the diverse cultural scene of Berlin itself”.
In the final room, I find guests floating in saltwater beneath a concrete cupola. DJs provide a soundtrack from the water’s edge that plays through underwater speakers, while an ambient lightshow decorates the dimly lit dome. This is Liquidrom’s largest room, capable of hosting an audience of up to 50 floating people, yet it’s also supposed to be its least social. This is a room aimed to facilitate a shared experience rather than a shared conversation.
Bremer KPS Group
Samuel Davison is Editor at Right Angle Studio. He has written extensively on cities for a range of international publications. He also publishes This is the Same Ocean, an annual journal of photography. His photographic work has been shown around the world and he was the 2016 winner of the Independent Photography Festival’s Grand Jury Prize.