In China, traditional foot bath therapy has a history behind it spanning over a thousand years but its appeal is far from enduring, especially to young urbanites. “FOREST FOR REST”, a Chinese leisure & wellness brand with a young target audience, is attempting to remedy this trend with a brand-new venue in Chongqing, a burgeoning metropolis in the southwest of the country. Designed by Leaping Creative, a branding design consultancy that took on everything from the interiors, to the signage, brochures and tote bags, to the brand’s online presence, the venue eschews the lacklustre aesthetic of contemporary spas for a playful wonderland vibe. More akin to an immersive art installation, the unique wellness centre is ready to shake off young customers' stereotype of the industry.
The design of the venue is aligned with the brand’s story where customers-turned-travellers embark on an arduous four-step journey through the desert culminating in an oasis-like wonderland as a metaphor for stressed urbanites seeking relaxation. Accompanying “travellers” along their journey is the brand’s icon, Hercules the beetle, which symbolises healing, energy and vitality. Widely featured in all of the brand’s print and supportive materials, Hercules also makes several appearances throughout the spaces in both two and three dimensions.
Located on the third floor of a popular shopping mall, the spa welcomes guests with Oasis Café, a cavernous, sand-coloured space that references the desert wherefrom they will embark their journey. Embracing an architectural language of curves, the design of this space is inspired by the city's unique mountainous terrain but also alludes to the sand dunes and rock formations that can be found in desert type morphologies, with a treasure chest-like product display providing a flashy counterpoint to the room’s austere sensibility.
Stepping into the waiting area, guests encounter a forest-like space swathed in lush, green hues where low lighting and dreamy installations encourage guests to relax. The immersive, soothing ambience is carried on to the next room where guests remove their shoes before entering into the spa rooms. Dubbed “Moonlight Shallow”, the space was designed with privacy in mind, with a meandering structure forming discrete seating areas where guests can slip into the spa’s footwear away from prying eyes, under the soft glow of a “full moon” courtesy of a semi-circular luminous screen and a reflective ceiling.
Finally, after traversing the “desert”, “forest” and the moonlit resting spot, guests arrive at their destination, the spa area, which is also accessed by a kaleidoscopic escalator clad in coloured zinc plates – not as relaxing as the other route but definitely as fun. Comprising a series of minimalist designed private rooms, the “Rainbow Cave” as this fairy tale-like section is named, unfolds as a composition of curved walls, arched passageways and elliptical openings that gently usher guests into their assigned treatment room. Swathed in green and peach hues, the circulation areas features polished terrazzo flooring, brass details and sculptural lighting fixtures that enhance the wonderland sensation.
Designed with an emphasis on comfort, privacy and simplicity, the treatment rooms are swathed in a muted palette of grey and cherry, or olive and ochre hues, embracing a subdued aesthetic of minimalist elegance. Equipped with plush reclining armchairs for foot baths, relaxing massage beds and sculptural built-in bathtubs with soothing luminous screens above, the treatment rooms ultimately reward the guests’ journey with healing and joy.