There are over 130 heating swimming pools in Iceland, and stories of bathing in naturally heated water goes back to the 13th century. But the nature bathing complex tourist destination, tapping into the image of Iceland as this destination for “sustainable wellness” is a newer development. I visited the Myvatn baths, which stands as an interesting comparison to the Blue Lagoon.
The complex is modeled after the success of the Blue Lagoon. The lagoon (heated, sulfurous swimming pool) itself still has the same quality, and there is a view over Myvatn lake.
However the architectural design is not executed in such a well developed manner. Many of similar ideas come into play: use of local rock materials as walls, clean modern interior spaces, linear bands of program types that line the lagoon. But here it is not done in such an artful way. The rock gabion walls here appear to provide thermal mass and texture, but are added to a typical wall construction without an attempt at synthesis. The interiors have clean, simple materials, but are lacking the elements that create a thickness, tactility, or variation of light quality to the interior space. The cost here is about half of the cost at the Blue Lagoon. The much more remote location is likely the significant factor of difference, as well as the design quality of the facility.