Elevated floors can signify importance or grandeur, and sunken floors evoke intimacy. A level change helps to define a space without creating a physical barrier; a hierarchy in a set a datums. A sunken lounge is associated with spatial theatricality and uniqueness, but they are actually a very simple spatial device. This amphibious lounge provides the occupants with a comfortable bath and sofa in one.
As bathing facilities moved into homes, bath-houses were less needed and subsequently demolished. Remnants of the culture of bathing remain today in spas and hot tub gatherings, but also in sunken lounges if you just add water.
In 1963, Time magazine said “in the late 1950s there was hardly a blueprint around that did not include specifications for a large, shallow hole to be sunk into the living-room floor”. The conversation pit at the Miller House, designed in 1957 by Eero Saarinen, is one of the most famous examples. Sunken lounges have had a resurgence in popularity thanks to the American TV period drama Mad Men set in the 1960s.
Bath-house culture throughout history has revolved around cleanliness, relaxation, conversation, political discussion, and mental rejuvenation. The conversation pit and sunken lounge have used level changes and inward facing seating to create many of the same conditions and human interactions.
So, why sit on an uncomfortable sofa when you can bathe in comfort, either alone or socially?
What if you just add water to the lounge?
The main challenge this synergy will face is the transition between wet and dry. Hot, wet air must be extracted and the surfaces dried out. Heated surfaces would increase the speed of evaporation of water on the seating, walls, and floors. The extraction of hot air and moisture could be through a mechanical device, such as an MVHR, or an openable window or rooflight.