A group of local entrepreneurs in East Iceland had an idea. They wanted to create an authentic geothermal pool destination on the beautiful Lake Urriðavatn. The location was unique, even in Icelandic terms: a pristine lake that sits upon a geothermal water source flowing with warm water that is so pure it’s certified drinkable – one-of-a-kind for Iceland.
We teamed up with the founders and Reykjavik-based Basalt Architects to create Vök Baths, a geothermal destination, featuring the only floating pools in Iceland, along with on-shore pools, a sauna, a restaurant, and a pool bar, plus staff and service areas.
From the start, we worked closely together with the founders on the concept and initial ideas for the location, as well as the business model.
The inspiration for Vök’s concept and brand comes from “tuskuvakir,” an opening in the lake’s ice that never freezes. The locals didn’t know what caused the phenomenon, and so many legends from the area speak of monsters and spirit animals. The actual source of the warm water wasn’t discovered until 1963. The name, Vök is the Icelandic term for a spring, and is a reference to this historical background
We developed a brand identity that builds on the water, the territory and the tradition, and a human connection – to the local nature and other people. The founders deep respect towards nature, and their genuine sustainable approach to developing the travel industry in the region is at the center of the brand.
We then translated these core values of the brand to both the physical, tangible destination, as well as the digital storytelling to create a unique and memorable customer experience.
The two geothermal pools float in the lake and are anchored down like boats, minimizing their environmental impact and bringing guests in direct contact with the lake. Evoking the special character of “Tuskuvakir,” the two floating pools are shaped like the openings of a frozen lake. Infinity edges blur the boundary between the artificial and natural environment, creating an undisturbed view from the inside of the warm pool to the cold lake.
The pools by Bluet required particularly resistant materials that would work in the harsh arctic conditions. The structure is large to give guests the best possible experience, and carefully positioned in the lake to ensure the best view of the surrounding nature.
When working on the destination, we considered the customer journey through the different bathing experiences, for a varied, enjoyable experience for the Vök Baths guests. Our service design team also explored the local heritage, culture, and habits to build a multifaceted service offering nature and culinary experiences beyond just a swimming pool.
The Vök Baths experience begins with a cup of tisanes brewed with the spring water with local herbs. The custom-made tisane bar at the entrance hall features a statement copper pipe that carries hot water directly from the hot water spring below the lake. The concrete counter gives a natural, tactile feel.
Vök features a restaurant that serves lunch, coffee, and dinner, made using the Urridavatn water and local and organic ingredients.
Vök also brews custom beer, Vökvi and Vaka, available in the restaurant and pool bar. The labels feature natural colors and reference the shapes of the ‘vakir’ ice patches.
The Vök interiors feature light and natural shades that reflect the surrounding nature. The furnishings are custom made, using concrete, larch wood and grey tones, reminiscent of earth tones, allowing the exterior view to become the focal point.
The materials are natural, colors are in neutral tones of greys and blues to reflect the colors of the lake and the Icelandic skies. Close attention was paid to the materials and how they feel to the touch – tabletops are concrete instead of glossy artificial surfaces.
Storytelling is essential for creating a successful travel destination. We developed the Vök brand identity and communication pillars to transmit the core values of respect for nature, genuineness, and sustainability in the digital experience of the destination.
We then built the communication plan, including style direction, early website, and social media strategy, working closely with the client on both the high-level strategy and the daily deliverables.