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.
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 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.
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.”
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