Designed by Formline Architecture + Urbanism, this architectural insertion, tucked deep within the Boreal Forest, truly uncovers a more accessible hot spring facility for people in search of a soothing mineral bath. In Northern Canada, along the Alaskan Highway and between mountains, lies a mineral pool fed by underground water heated deep within the earth, seeping up from the fissures in the fractured bedrock below. The Liard River Hot Springs project replaces the existing timber deck and change room facility that was eroding due to environmental exposure. The deck is semi-circular in plan, centered on the hot springs. Stepped levels of canal-salvaged ipe provides generous space for descent into the springs. During the material research, mock-ups of proposed materials were delivered to the site and set out over the winter to be tested for durability maintenance and climate exposure.

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Formline Architecture + Urbanism provided an opening into the thick deciduous forest using a quarter mile cedar boardwalk, elevated to protect the precious muskeg marsh purifying the pool. The wooden walkway opens up to a clean sparse red balau deck, cedar clad benches and gentle steps for decent into the free-flowing mineral bath. Neither electrical nor mechanical infrastructure were allowed on site, as the object was to maintain the peaceful natural air. The change-room was designed and supported by turned bi-pod Douglas fir columns, inspired by the Lean-To Structures used by the Local Dene culture. A simple 4×4 structure encloses the change-rooms that are clad throughout with clear western red cedar. Holes were carved into the walls to serve as a lookout for wandering bears. Semi-translucent lexan panels clad the roof, providing natural light to the change rooms. The belvedere fully embodies the spirit of place and resembles a masterfully crafted and erected shelter for people to interact and be healed by nature. The beauty lies in its’ ability to co-exist peacefully and respectfully with the surrounding natural and cultural world.

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