Arlington Baths Lower Showers
Arlington Baths Club
Preserving historic fabric, injecting character, and enhancing the bathing ritual at the oldest surviving bathing complex of its kind in the world.
Collaborating with Arlington Baths Club, custodians of the A-listed baths building, since 2014, an holistic programme of works was identified to ensure the Club’s longevity.
The Club highlighted the Lower Showers area as requiring most urgent repair and maintenance works to protect the building fabric, and in 2020 – the Club’s 150th year, we developed proposals to:
- renew windows, upgrade finishes, and reconfigure services and drainage to protect the building fabric,
- uncover and celebrate the Art Deco heritage of the space and,
- select a rich palette of materials and colours to create an atmospheric, characterful experience.
Historic Images credit: Arlington Baths Club
There are virtually no historic buildings, even in the Category A listed grouping, that remain unaltered.
However, we needed to have a thorough understanding of the original building fabric, design intent and previous change so that our proposal sit comfortably in this continuum and is a “natural” part of the building’s evolution.
The Historic Environment Scotland listing concludes that “Arlington Baths Club is an outstanding and early example of an early private members swimming baths, with Turkish Baths and other facilities, for it survives largely as it was built in the late 19th and early 20th century.”
The original Baths building, a single-storey construction along Arlington Street, was designed by John Burnet Senior in 1871, followed by his Turkish Baths in 1875, with later additions (including the first floor) by A Myles and B Conner in 1893 and 1902 respectively. The building’s listing was upgraded to Category A in 2012-13.
Located at the rear of the baths, nestled between occupied domestic properties and sitting lower than the Pool Hall, the Lower Showers area is believed to be part of the early 20th century mews terrace along West End Park Lane, rather than part of the “original” Baths complex. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the space was incorporated into the Club in the 1920s or 30s.
We compiled a timeline of development of the site and undertook an assessment of significance to understand where the Lower Showers space sits in the historic context of incremental additions made to the Baths.
This allowed us to develop proposals to remove intrusive and unsympathetic elements, and highlight items of historical and aesthetic value.
Deriving inspiration from evidence of its early 19th century construction, a complementary materials palette was crafted of terrazzo, black metal framework and chrome tapware.
Existing chrome Art-Deco Needle Showers and marble dividers – full of character and the patina of 100 years of use, are retained and reused.
Materials have been selected for robustness, with marine-grade metalwork and tiled finishes to protect against the high volumes of water anticipated.
Stepping down from the light, bright volume of the Pool Hall, the Lower Showers feel almost subterranean – darker, smaller and more atmospheric, highlighting different experiences along the bathing ritual sequence.