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21 Jan 2018 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Michel Kreuger

Movers & Shakers

Michel Kreuger


Key figures from the global spa industry and beyond give their thoughts on spa trends, opportunities and threats and tell us about their backgrounds

Katie Barnes, Spa Business
Michel Kreuger, Co-Founder, STUDIO NOACH
Under Blanc’s living wall system a composite cloth material is wrapped around the exterior of the structure, allowing vegetation to grow

In 2008, Dutchman Michel Kreuger – along with ex pro football player Kizito Musampa and architect Anne Holtrop – set up architectural firm Studio Noach to develop the Green Floating concept which uses recycled polystyrene to create floating buildings. With an investment of €9m, the design, which was originally thought up for a futures design competition for the Netherlands Architect Institute, is being turned into a commercial business. The first property, a spa, is set to open in mid-2014 on a freshwater lake just outside Amsterdam’s city centre. Covered in a living wall of plants created by renowned botanist Patrick Blanc and featuring treatments to help the brain adapt and heal itself, this is set to be groundbreaking spa design

Can you explain the Green Floating concept?
Its all based on building on a foundation of recycled polystyrene, which is as strong as steel, but which can flex by 17 per cent and is also very buoyant and provides excellent insulation. This structure is coated by fibreglass and covered with a layer of vegetation on top of the building.

We always knew that the carbon footprint of our buildings had to be neutral – we’ve actually gone one step further and made it carbon negative because the vegetation will convert CO2 to oxygen.

How did the partnership with Patrick Blanc come about?
The idea of having vegetation on the walls and roof came from the floating gardens created in the 1970s by the Dutch artist Robert Jasper Grootveld. We wanted to create a structure similar to that; when we teamed up with architect Anne Holtrop he said there’s a better way of doing this – a new technique by Patrick Blanc, creator of the Living Wall.

Blanc’s technique is based in the idea that you don’t need soil to grow plants – all you need is sunlight, nutrients, minerals and water. He wraps a composite cloth material around buildings, which just needs to be sprinkled with water for a few minutes each day – using this technique you can have plants on the side of walls.

It wasn’t easy to contact Patrick Blanc, but when we did he got very enthusiastic about our idea because what we had created was an ecological loop – normally his vertical gardens use rainwater with added nutrients and minerals, but our concept building floats on fresh water so the plants can use that.

How did Kizito Musampa get involved?
I live on the canal close to the red light district, and one day I saw a Lamborghini with a Spanish licence plate. I kept seeing it and noticed the owner paying a parking meter – the meters in Amsterdam are some of the most expensive in the world. A few weeks later, I recognised the owner in a restaurant and offered him my spare parking permit – I was quite surprised when he turned out to be the professional footballer Kiki Musampa, a former Ajax player.

Months later we got closer, he got enthusiastic about my plans and he said he’d like to get involved. Kiki is originally from the Congo. His father is a professor of botanics, so he already had an interest.

Why is your first building a spa?
The original idea was to build houseboats, but when the housing market stalled we moved into wellness because it’s a niche market. Even when the housing market dips, there is a still a demand for wellness and spas.

Why are you launching it in the Netherlands?
We’re based in Amsterdam and we have a freshwater lake around 15 minutes outside the middle of the city. It’s a place where you can relax and look over the horizon, while being very close the city centre and the 17th century canals.

The Amsterdam local government is trying to move away from the image of the red light district and coffee shops and encourage more visitors interested in Van Gogh, Rembrandt and the canals. We think that sort of audience would be keen to go on a boat trip and spend half a day in the spa.

What facilities will the spa have?
It’s a two-storey building. On the ground floor there will be four pools, including an outdoor infinity pool and a hot tub with views across the lake. There will be two restaurants/bars (one wet, one dry) and five saunas, including two with panoramic views of the lake.

The top floor will feature three treatment rooms and a large room for group therapy such as hot yoga. These rooms will all provide views over the lake.

What will set the Floating Gardens apart from other spas?
We are competing with four- and five-star city centre hotels. In these hotels, the spa facilities tend to consist of a pool and a sauna – sometimes in the basement – where the view is of someone else’s genitals! In our case you have a beautiful view across the lake and gardens.

What kind of treatments will you offer?
Spas shouldn’t just offer relaxation; change is what people are really looking for in order to obtain long-lasting peace of mind.

Areas such as psychoneuroimmunology, which looks at how people’s emotions and health are related, and the links between stress and disease, will be explored in our spa treatments.

I’ve travelled around the world researching treatment ideas, but the Tibetan lamas I met in India and Nepal really opened my eyes. I learned that it’s possible to not only change the mind, but also the structure of the brain. Today, pioneering experiments in neuroplasticity, a new science studying the brain’s potential for change, reveal that we are capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons. There is now clear evidence that the brain can adapt, heal and renew itself. Our spa will offer this wealth of knowledge to its customers.

How is the project being funded?
Kiki is mainly funding the project. We are also currently in the process of negotiating a rollout of the concept to the rest of the world, although I can’t say too much about that yet. We need to get the first spa out, so that we will have a flagship.

Who will the spa attract?
It will be quite high-end – it will attract four and five-star visitors.


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2013 issue 1

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