Birnbeck Island

Weston-super-Mare, UK | 27,000 m2
Spa and Fitness Centre
International competition

Project Information

Seaside towns and ports encapsulate the romance and character of the British people. For over two hundred years, they provided an escape from the industrial workplace. Mundane and exotic co-existed there side by side, and discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary has always enchanted the curious visitor. Birnbeck Island, abandoned for many years, has been used as a steamer pier, a weapon testing area and as a pier-head ride with multiple recreational facilities. Our proposal echoes its history both through a conceptual interpretation of a steam engine and as a destination for today’s hedonistic leisure seeker.

The resulting project is an extraordinary mechanistic structure that interlocks remnants of the Victorian infrastructure (buildings/pier) with a new wellness centre. Our proposal is a natural fusion generated from the site as a destination detached from the hectic contemporary urban chaos, and as a more personal and holistic journey that focuses on introspection and draws together man and nature, through the evocative and suggestive power of the sea.

Specifically designed so that each area can offer a new ecological approach, it provides multi-therapeutic baths with thalassotherapy, various areas for both physical and mental treatment, training and fitness facilities, and the hotel with all its amenities. The priority for us was to take full advantage of the isolated location and particular weather conditions, not only to enhance its setting but also to create consciousness towards the environment. As a result, its elements are expressed as steam engine mechanisms whose qualities are further articulated in the detail of the design.

The new project harnesses and generates its own power through the use of the spectacular tides (10 metres) typical of this area, and by flooding basins and parts of the project and activating turbines, visitors are constantly obliged to reassess and change their paths. This gives the apparently static geometrical structure a machine-like aesthetic with dynamic components and the qualities of a working engine.

Birnbeck Island, therefore, becomes a wellness oasis, offering multiple treatments in perfect fusion with the setting, technology and man. The aim was to design with and for the sea: to allow the water to bring the project to life and let it breathe and adapt as an autonomous marine body where architecture and nature are in a symbiotic harmony; a project capable of sparking a new awareness of our ecosystem and a ‘blue thinking’ approach.

Name: Birnbeck Island
Architects: Matteo Cainer Architects
Location: Weston-super-Mare, UK
Programme: Spa and Fitness Centre
Client: Urban Splash
Project size: 27,000 m2
MCA Principal: Matteo Cainer
MCA Team: Avigael Perez, Nina Bobinac

Exhibition: III Pisa Architecture Biennale 2019 - TEMPODACQUA / TIMEOFWATER


Weston-super-Mare, UK | 27,000 m2
Spa and Fitness Centre
International competition