Behind the scenes of Nordic spas

Almost 20 years ago, the first wave of Nordic spas emerged in Quebec. Since then, the province has grown into a leader in this field. Local teams, drawing on expertise from across North America, work to design these spaces, where every detail is taken care of for our comfort and well-being.

Posted at 11:00 am

Isabelle Morin

Isabelle Morin
The press

You turn off your car engine. As soon as you walk down the path that leads you to the spa, you take a first relaxed breath. The strategy put in place to ensure you pick up works.

“Space-time is expanded from the first minutes. From the moment we arrive, we are invited to connect with nature,” explains architect Pierre Thibault, who designed the latest additions to La Source Spa in Rawdon, where 80 steps lead up to the building over more than seven floors. This buffer zone allows for a first break from everyday life.

The experience continues at the reception, where a sensual lullaby and a glimpse of the beauties of the place announce the journey ahead. The customer can then, if he has confidence, leave his worries in the dressing room to continue better in an environment designed for his escape.


Built on the side of a mountain, La Source draws on its natural surroundings of rock and forest.

make triggers

“I always jokingly say that a spa is Disneyland for adults,” says Pierre Mierski of Lemaymichaud, which has worked on a dozen spas in Quebec and elsewhere for 10 years, including the four Strøm and Chelsea Nordik. “You can take a hot bath at home and relax. In a spa we want to create a unique environment where everyone can find a form of well-being in their own way. »

Nature is closely related to this relaxation operation. As we are not working from an exceptional location, we will bring natural elements into the created ecosystem.

When it rains, I want us to experience it, that rain, but in comfort. In a spa we constantly play with the space between outside and inside, hot and cold, intimacy and space.

Pierre Mierski, architect of the Lemaymichaud company

The former Bota Bota theater boat is situated in an urban setting and offers spectacular views of the city centre, the old port and the river. “In this type of project, the architecture becomes a seeing machine,” says Jean Pelland of Sid Lee Architecture, who worked on the design of the facility under the umbrella of Nomade. “A large part of well-being comes from being in contact with a unique environment. »

This permeability with the environment allows not only contemplation, but also directing the gaze outwards instead of towards the other. Giving the impression that everyone on a site with 300 people is alone in the world is a carefully considered exercise.


Bota Bota facilities, spa on the water

The cocoon in its details

The notion of intimacy is an essential aspect when designing a spa. “When a customer walks into a room, they need to feel like they’re the first to walk in,” says La Source co-owner Patrice Lalancette.

Nothing should be vivid or garish in this enveloping bubble, notes Pierre Thibault “No source of stress and excitement for the senses. »

  • A partially submerged corridor allows you to move from one building to another at Strøm in Quebec.


    A partially submerged corridor allows you to move from one building to another at Strøm in Quebec.

  • Mont Saint-Hilaire's stream is tied to its rural setting.


    Mont Saint-Hilaire’s stream is tied to its rural setting.


Spas are “complex bugs,” “machines unto themselves,” still represent their creators. According to Pierre Mierski, about 40% of the spa is visible to the public. The rest takes place behind the scenes where many employees are employed. “Secret doors and hidden corridors are planned. There’s always that double circulation so the idyllic side of the experience is never compromised. »

Also, the connection between nature, well-being and ecology can be misleading. The energy consumption of spas is particularly high. Research is ongoing to improve this aspect with less polluting energies or to overcome it with added value – for example recycling a building or preserving the site.

Adding to these challenges is a particularly harsh environment, particularly for materials exposed to extreme humidity and temperature variations. “In Quebec, we probably have the worst climate for spa design. When we have a project in Arizona, we laugh our heads off! », emphasizes Pierre Mierski, recalling the know-how that local artisans have acquired over the years in these difficult conditions.


The Balnea Spa, opened in 2005

find uniqueness

“When I started there was little competition. Now we have to stand out from the crowd,” says Denis Laframboise, whose Balnéa was among the first to offer the Scandinavian experience. Bromont Spa recently announced a $10 million investment in the renovation of its facilities. It also wants to promote itself as an environmentally conscious multi-activity destination with greater accommodation capacity, the addition of a micro farm, greenhouses and gardens.

In order to expand the offer for an increasingly demanding clientele, catering is becoming more and more a must, as is the care offer: two particularly lucrative aspects.

We can no longer be as monolithic as when we designed our first spas.

Jean Pelland of Sid Lee Architecture

However, many surprises are to be expected. Here you will find spas like nowhere else, with daily formulas and exceptional locations. “What we are seeing in Quebec remains the tip of the iceberg of what is being done in Europe,” notes Pierre Mierski. Spas are starting to import experiences from elsewhere. It’s a planet of opportunity! »

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