Designed by 4a Architekten, the new Emser Thermenhotel might bring to mind the image of a river pebble that’s been shaped by the flowing water and then deposited on the riverbank. The wellness center stands on a narrow strip of land at the point where the small spa town of Bad Ems, Germany, meets the Lahn River. Elongated to accommodate the shape of the land, its shapes are smooth and rounded, just the way water will mold a rock until its blends in with the lay of the land and landscape.
The wellness center was inaugurated in 2021 to coincide with the accreditation of Bad Ems as a Great Spa City of Europe. It’s connected to the existing Emser Therme spa facility via a fully glazed suspended walkway, which is accessed by guests – dressed in bathrobes, if they like – directly from their rooms.
The hotel has five aboveground levels and 84 rooms, all of them on the south side of the building and overlooking the river. The property is crowned by the splendid Skylounge, which sits atop the building like a diamond in its setting. The ground-level floor, which extends over a larger area than the volume above, forms the building’s podium, giving the architecture a grandeur and majesty. Besides the lobby, it houses a lounge, meeting and seminar rooms, and a restaurant.
The abundant use of glass to define vertical surfaces brings a brightness to the interiors as well as opening up views to the outside. The glass surfaces also reflect the recurring theme of the design, with their soft shapes and rounded edges defining the volumes. The regularity of the south-facing façade, created by the geometry of the full-height guestroom windows, is interrupted on the northern street frontage. Here, the large glass volume that marks the location of the internal staircase gives the façade a tripartite geometry, punctuated by full and empty spaces. The staircase is located centrally in the overall composition, occupying a volume subtracted from the building between the foyer and the fourth floor to provide access to all the hotel corridors.
The image of a river pebble isn’t only reflected on the outside of the building but is also a recurring theme in its interiors and furnishings. Their lines, and the contours of the ceilings and moldings are fluid and graceful, accentuated by the generous use of wooden finishes and a soft color palette. The warmth of wood combines with natural stone surfaces, rich wallpapers, upholstered furniture, and soft, velvety fabrics that give the rooms a feeling of wellbeing.
The lounge area in particular is designed to create a mood of domestic intimacy. Although located directly in front of the entrance, it offers guests privacy through the use of visual screens. The fireplace, bookcase, and the furniture arranged in an informal way all contribute to creating the atmosphere of a living room.
Finally, the Skylounge on the roof is dedicated to relaxation by day and night. It has a terrace where guests can sunbathe while taking in the views of the surrounding landscape, and a bar that’s a pleasant place to meet up and spend the evening in the laid-back atmosphere created by the use of white painted wood and a canopy formed by numerous colored ropes.
Location: Bad Ems, Germany
Client: Emser Therme
Gross Floor Area: 7.070 m2
Architect: 4a Architekten
Structures: Fischer + Friedrich Ingenieurgesellschaft für Tragwerksplanung
Construction physics: Kurz und Fischer Beratende Ingenieure
Lighting Design: Licht Kunst Licht
Heating, Ventilation, Sanitation: Kannewischer Ingenieurgesellschaft
Electrical Planning: BHP-FFM Ingenieurgesellschaft
Photography by David Matthiessen, courtesy of 4a Architekten