A total work of art

Wellness and brutalism – an unusual combination: the former stands for well-being, while the latter triggers the opposite for many people, and yet the Königstein spa can best be described as such. Although its bead shapes, material and protruding terraces are typical stylistic elements of architectural brutality, one thing is unusual: the bright orange-blue complementary colours in which the concrete structure is painted.

If brutalist buildings, as their name suggests, are usually concrete grey, the spa is brightly coloured from the outside as well as from the inside, one cannot say otherwise. Thus the spa is embedded in the Taunus forest not far from the centre of Königstein, but still looks like a foreign body.

What lasts a long time

Already before the Second World War, a health centre for the climatic health resort Königstein was under discussion for the first time. But it was not until the 1960s, after war and reconstruction had delayed the project, that a commission was set up to commission the city to design a spa.

After the site for the construction had finally been determined, the committee announced a competition, after which several architects* submitted their concepts – the Stuttgart architects Ingeborg and Rudolf Geier, who had already helped to design the Lower Saxony spa town of Bad Bevensen in 1970, were finally awarded the contract.

Almost three decades passed from the first decision to the start of construction in 1975. The construction of the sculptural indoor swimming pool made of steel, concrete and glass took just two years. The commission commissioned the Stuttgart graphic artist Otto Herbert Hajek with the artistic colour design. At that time, Hajek was not only the chairman of the Deutscher Künstlerbund, but was also known for his repeated participations in documenta II and III – the building owes its conspicuous painting in bright blue and orange to him.

A total work of art

According to Hajek, blue stands for peace and quiet and orange embodies joie de vivre; both are characteristics that make up a healthy person. Large parts of the population of Königstein saw things quite differently – for a long time a bitter discussion raged about the colour design, in which Hajek finally prevailed: “A lively, non-indoctrinated society expresses itself through its open and demanding relationship to art,” the artist can be quoted as saying. The colours accompany the visitors* inside through the entire bathroom: sometimes they appear as polychrome surfaces, sometimes they decorate the walls as abstract patterns, as in the entrance area. In addition to the indoor swimming pool, there is now an outdoor pool and a rest area, which were only added a few years later.

A sun terrace, as well as several areas for different wellness offers offer additional cure means to the recovery-looking for. Since 2013 the orange-blue building has had the status of a cultural monument. It owes this not only to the architectural design, but rather to the extraordinary interplay of architecture and fine art, which turns the spa into a total work of art.

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