To make space for thought and free the mind, it is necessary to start with what surrounds us. This must have been the starting point for Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, once they had been contacted by the Haeberlin-Baumann family regarding the extension of the existing hotel with an area dedicated solely to wellbeing, the Spa des Saules. A task made easier by the splendid location of the entire complex, which also includes a restaurant – the Auberge de l’Ill – the original dating back more than 150 years and with 3 "active" Michelin stars since 1967.
All in a picture postcard setting. Illhaeusern, Alsace: only 600 inhabitants in a little hamlet on the banks of the river Fecht, surrounded by lush vegetation and meadows in flower. And even though the designers were given carte blanche by the client, the works were utterly respectful to the pastoral panorama.
The elimination of the superfluous turned out to be the first step in meeting the requirements of a meditative ambience, as well as offering hospitality, where time is suspended in a state of complete relaxation. So much so that the five Junior Suites, each 40 square metres, where calm and repose are preserved by drawing on treatments in the Region’s Roman baths, are provided with a special chapel, suitable for a spiritual retreat.
The great care taken over the essential ensures an all-round sensorial experience free of unnecessary details or ornaments.
This is especially true of the architecture, which evokes the old barns in local wood, in completely natural, untreated materials, mostly oak and polished grey stone, with a very limited colour palette. From the outside, an imposing wooden grill is seen that surrounds the building - the roof of which is covered with dark grey tiles – where the indoor heated swimming pool that extends to the outside can be seen through an opening in a wall.
The demand for authenticity also continues in the rooms, where the bed, specifically designed by the Jouin-Manku duo, is placed at the centre of the room with a large, padded headboard, along with a small selection of objects, including a lamp shade, a screen concealing the television, a writing desk made of thick oak strategically positioned to offer the best view of the countryside.
Every guest can also enjoy their own outside space in complete privacy. Something that is even possible in the black stone bathrooms, concealed behind a sliding wooden panel, opened and closed as required while in the bath.
The Spa, created in collaboration with Silvio Rauseo, is extremely attractive with its warm, welcoming hues and a hot stone statuary in cement organically shaped on site. Not a sign here of dressing rooms or what is required to get changed, all suitably concealed by smoked glass doors.
A sauna, a Turkish bath and 3 swimming pools complete the offer.
Client/Owner: Marco, Danielle, Edouard and Katrin Baumann
Location: 4 Rue de Collonges au Mont d'Or, 68970 Illhaeusern
Architecture and Interior design: Agence Jouin Manku/Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, Yann Brossier, Daphna Glaubert, Mickaël Gouret, Henry Gagnaire
Site architect: Atelier Rauseo, Silvio Rauseo
Main contractor: Armindo
Timber structure and roof: Creacharpente
Plasterwork: Werey Stenger
Internal joinery: L’Atelier des Ménétriers, Les Creagenceurs
Stone: Gervasi Frères
Hot stone: Atelier Deshommes
Stainless-steel pool: Inoxxia
Photo Credits: Nicolas Mathéus