Banya No 1- a Russian spa
Banya No 1-Chiswick
This project came completely out of the blue! An enquiry arrived by email in June 2020 from Anna Vidiney, founder and one of the management team of a Russian spa and wellness company called Banya No 1 looking for a UK based construction company with experience in building with fire resistant materials. They already had a functioning Russian Bath house in Hoxton London and were looking for a UK based specialist builder to take on the construction of the brick furnace for a new project adjacent to Turnham Green, Chiswick in West London.
The Hoxton branch of Banya No 1 had been closed by the first Covid-19 lockdown but by the middle of July the government had allowed spas to reopen allowing some of the project team and myself to indulge ourselves in a session to familiarise ourselves with the operation and details of the treatments.
We had all had saunas in the past but this was a new level of endurance! The sauna room was much hotter than experienced before so we were only allowed to sweat for about 15 minutes with our skulls protected by a charming felt cloche before being ushered out to the wet room to be soaked with cold water from wooden buckets tipped by a pull rope. We were ordered to sit down and relax a while ( to get over the shock!) before taking several pots of Fireweed tea in the tea room.
After 20 minutes rest, we were taken one after the other back into the sauna for a new session, this time laying down near the furnace on a special wooden bed. A burly ex Russian serviceman took charge, stripped down to shorts, who then proceeded to whack up the heat and steam by opening the furnace and throwing ladles of water over a super hot mass of cast iron. Wafting super hot invisible steam down from the low ceiling, he started to beat me gently with leafy Birch and Eucalyptus branches first on my back then on my front. This is when you really feel the extreme heat penetrating your body with sweat literally pouring out.
After the regulation 15mins, the treatment was finished and I was offered the icy plunge pool as the finale in the wet room. Walking up steps to the raised pool, the idea is to jump in completely submerging your head and body. Wow…rest was definitely needed after that. A sit down and copious amounts of tea in the tea room where we could all compare our experiences. Close to torture but strangely addictive!
Banya No1-Chiswick build
Our build eventually got underway in November as we had to wait for Meridian, the main contractor fitting out the spa, to get to a point where we could get access, concrete screeds had been laid and foundations for the furnace cast.
With limited parking and off loading space at the rear of the Banya no 1 building, we struggled to keep up with traffic wardens and potential parking fines, moving the van every 4 hours, in and out of Sainsbury’s car park and surrounding streets. The joys of working in London….
The build went reasonably smoothly after working out brick spacing of only 3mm set with a Vitcas fire proof mortar. The brick selected was a Class B solid red engineering type as it was water and fireproof and completely stable at the working temperature of the furnace. The interior was an insulated stainless steel box with welded tubes carrying heating elements so the core could be heated up to 5-600C, with the heat generated heating up a stacked core of cast iron ingots by conduction and radiation.
We has some issues with the bricks as engineering brick although very dense and heavy, chips quite easily on its sharp arrises. There was a lot of sorting of the 800 or so bricks on site but a few chipped bricks crept in to the build that upset the client somewhat, compounded by the fact that the brick had a very slight curve across its face that meant it cast shadows where high points at the ends met the low centres of bricks below.
The sauna or Parnaya itself was fascinating, in that it was lined with engineered trees from the arctic circle. Dead but standing and perfectly preserved trees are cut and machined in half as a kind of tongue and groove cladding. Because of the cold, they are highly resistant to rot and make a perfect rustic lining to a sauna.
With expansion joints set around the metal vents and main cast iron stove door, the whole structure should be able to heat up to around 80C working temperature on the outside without cracking or metal work being compromised. We finally finished on site about 10 days later and handed the build over to the electricians installing the heating elements and high voltage wiring.
The whole project is stunning both in its design and execution and we are proud to be associated with the build. Meridian did a brilliant job of the fitting out and special thanks to Jason Pelham, the site manager, who held our hands and bit his lip throughout the build!
Sadly the construction period came to an end before Christmas just as a new national lockdown placed London in tier 4 and both Banya No 1 Chiswick and Hoxton unable to open. As of February 2021, it is still closed and awaiting the go ahead to reopen. Check out Anna’s Instagram account for up to date info @anyasbanya
Banya No 1-Chiswick This project came completely out of the blue! An enquiry arrived by email in June 2020 from Anna Vidiney, founder and one of the management team of a Russian spa and wellness company called Banya No 1 looking for a UK based construction company with experience in building with fire resistant materials. […]