With water being the most vital component of life, it’s expected that its uses and powers range far beyond quenching thirst. Aquatherapy, a long practiced form of relaxation and rehabilitation, invites its newest rostrum – cityWell Brooklyn.
The founders of cityWell have decided to take Aquatherapy a step further, integrating the healing qualities of nature and elements of wood, fire, and earth into the experience. Recently opening a steam room, rain showers, hot stone therapy, and a 1500 Sq. Ft. Outdoor Oasis, the Brooklyn tastemakers are set to open a cedar sauna, group therapy rooms, and a Whirlpool in the upcoming months.
The women behind it all, wellness guru Liz Tortolani and architect Deborah Mariotti have been on a long journey to bring the cityWell vision to life. At the age of 13, Tortolani was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which she bravely battled throughout her entire adolescence. With a lack of improvement by modern medicine and constant hospitalization, Liz sought more alternative options. Discovering her first Korean Bathhouse in Australia was the start of a lifelong devotion to spreading awareness about wellness and the capabilities of alternative health. Mariotti, who was educated and spent time in Italy brought the European, intimate feeling of spaces to the urban NYC haven whilst forming a lifelong friendship with her business partner.
We had the pleasure of visiting both these visionaries at their Gowanus location to learn more:
HOM: There are many holistic techniques people use to treat ailments and stress, what drew you to Aqua Therapy in particular?
Liz: I was drawn to water therapy and really it was the knowledge that we (as humans, and especially in this fiery city of ours) need water to survive and thrive. It is all about balance, and I saw a need for myself and for my clients — they were all very stressed out and exhausted and craving more quiet time and restoration. I knew that water in general and natural elements help the body to relax and heal naturally and so this became the basis to create the concept and space around: nature, the elements of wood, earth and fire and specifically water.
HOM: What is your most important belief and philosophy driven behind cityWell?
Liz: I believe in the body’s natural and innate desire to heal. I have seen it in myself with my own health issues, but only saw this shift towards healing once I started taking care of my body and “listening to what it needs on both a physical, emotional and even spiritual levels. It is part of the mission of cityWell to provide a space where one can tune into their body’s needs, take the time to listen and care for yourself. When this happens, you are allowing your body to be in a state that can produce healing or even better yet, prevent illness — making this affordable, accessible and a part of daily life, not just a luxury.
HOM: When we visited, one of the huge components was the importance of synonymous architecture had shape throughout. Can you tell us a little bit about that design process?
Deborah: The limited width and rectangular shape of the existing space brought the image of the old European long distance luxury trains from 1800’s. Playing with the metaphor of the train, the aim was to create a space that flows seamlessly from the entrance to the backyard while leaving behind the urbanity of the surrounding Brooklyn and allowing the traveler/bath house visitor, to slowly immerse herself in the intimate spaces and to focus on herself.
HOM: Where did you draw inspiration from and what were the biggest obstacles?
Deborah: The biggest obstacle here was the size of the space. We had to create spaces that would not feel “sacrificed”. The goal was to convert the obstacle into a strength, to use a design language that would change the word “small” to the word ” intimate and cozy”.
HOM: Tell us about the specific materials you used to construct this cityWell sanctuary.
Deborah: The materials were carefully selected to echo the natural elements. Textured cork wood planks are used for the floors, creating a comfortable relaxing surface to walk on. A beautiful glazed blue tile from Spain in the showers enhances the feeling of the presence of water flowing from the rain showers. The black rough tile in the shower floors mimics the dark bottom of a grotto lake. The cement cast 5′ long sink reminds us of natural stone. The white tile in the steam room reminds us of a sunny summer day full of light. Cedar wood is used throughout, for the benches, the exterior doors and trims. It will also be used for the future exterior round sauna. The lighting comes from ceiling coves and it can be dimmed, to create different moods throughout the day and the seasons.
You can learn more on cityWells website.