The marble floors continue into the pool hall, which is lined with Pompeian red walls. The hot tub in the apse is flanked by a sauna and a steam room.
Paul Highnam The marble floors continue into the pool hall, which is lined with Pompeian red walls. The hot tub in the apse is flanked by a sauna and a steam room.


Rare is the commission, in the 21st century, for a classically styled pool house. But the Williamstrip Bath House in Gloucestershire, England, came as a matter of course. “In the United Kingdom, there is a wonderful tradition of building pavilions for pleasure in the grounds of great country houses,” says Craig Hamilton, director of Craig Hamilton Architects in Powys, Wales, “and there are historic examples of bathhouses in the 18th century.” After Hamilton completed a renovation on the main house of the estate—a 17th century pile reworked by Sir John Soane in the 1790s—the client, Creath Estates, tasked him to add a bathhouse to the grounds.

The entrance façade.
Paul Highnam The entrance façade.

For the renovation of the main house, “one cannot work on a property designed by a great architect without paying homage to that architect,” Hamilton says. “However, when it came to the bathhouse, which is an independent structure, then I hope that Mr. Soane would approve that I took references from much later classical sources.” Hamilton, who considers his style to be one of “progressive classicism,” looks to architects such as Edwin Lutyens and Charles Holden, who redefined the classical tradition in the early 20th century. Here at Williamstrip, Hamilton follows in their tradition, pulling examples from antiquity and making them his own. For example, on the entrance façade he reinterprets Ionic columns at the Temple of Apollo Epicurius in Bassae, Greece, exaggerating the volutes to the point of creating his own chambered-nautilus-like nonce order.

The limestone blocks were cut off site and have a tolerance of less than 1/8-inch.
Paul Highnam The limestone blocks were cut off site and have a tolerance of less than 1/8-inch.

The tie to the sea is intentional: All good templelike structures must be dedicated to a deity, and here Hamilton has chosen Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty who arose from the sea. The theme emerged in concert with sculptor Alexander Stoddart, whose tripartite frieze over the door depicts the goddess and her attendants, and it carries inside, with door hardware in the shape of dolphins and a cast bronze plate depicting Aphrodite as a light switch panel cover in the entrance hall.

The yellow-toned entrance hall, with its marble detailing, is meant to provide a contrast against the austere materiality of the exterior.
Paul Highnam The yellow-toned entrance hall, with its marble detailing, is meant to provide a contrast against the austere materiality of the exterior.

Along an axis from the entrance, a vaulted foyer gives way to the pool hall, which then culminates in an apse—completed with gilded half dome and alabaster windows—that holds a hot tub. Pompeian red is used on the walls of the pool hall, and cherry wood doors are inset with panels of fior de pesco, a rare Italian marble. There are many custom details and other bespoke touches, and, as a result, very few products with SKUs.

“We have so many historic buildings in the United Kingdom which require special care, so there are a range of craftsmen with skills to restore historic buildings,” Hamilton says. “We’re now being able to use those craftsmen to construct new buildings and, as an architect, I feel it is an absolute obligation to try and keep them inspired and with work.”

A sunken semicircular courtyard leads to a gym on the lower level.
Paul Highnam A sunken semicircular courtyard leads to a gym on the lower level.


The ionic columns feature exagerrated volutes.
Paul Highnam The ionic columns feature exagerrated volutes.

North facade.
Paul Highnam North facade.


Courtyard.
Paul Highnam Courtyard.


Drawings

Courtesy Craig Hamilton Architects



Project Credits Project  Williamstrip Bath House, Gloucestershire, England
Client  Creath Estates
Architect  Craig Hamilton Architects, Powys, Wales—Craig Hamilton (founding director)
Contractor  Meysey Construction
Structural Engineer  Frank W. Haywood and Associates
Stonemasonry Contractor  Ketton Stone Masonry & Fixings
Bronzework  Tramway Forge
Cost  Withheld