Lectures 2006
Skip Navigation Links : Lectures 2006 : September : "About water and baths. Water and body" Gaki Georgia, Stammatogiannaki Eleni

"About water and baths. Water and body" Gaki Georgia, Stammatogiannaki Eleni

According to the ancient Greek myth, the healing springs of Thermopylae were created by God Hephaestus after goddess Athena’s command. According to one opinion, the healing water would contribute to Hercules’ healing from a fatal disease. However, the most prevalent aspect is that Athena exhorted Hercules to bathe in the healing water of Thermopylae Springs so that he would feel relieved from the pain and regain his power after every labor of his.

In the seventh book of Herodotus’ history, Polyhymnia, is presented the preparation and the charge of Xerxes’ army in Greece, as well as the battle of Thermopylae. What the Persian spy faced in the Greek camp before the battle was completely unexpected. The Spartans during their preparation for the upcoming battle, although they are convinced about their defeat and upcoming death, bathe and take care of themselves. It concerns a ritual that reveals the symbolic presence of water, as it appears in the ancient Greek culture.


On the occasion of our diploma project which is about the construction of spa installation and the landscape configuration of the greater area around the mineral water springs of Thermopylae we study and search the diachronic and intercultural relationship between human nature and water, physically as well as psychically, having as final point of interest the experience of bath.

The object of this essay is this relation and its architectural expression, in a purely natural environment as well as in an artificial environment.

Today, more than ever, especially in the contemporary urban environment the substantial relation between individual and water and furthermore nature, is lost.

The aim of the essay is to underline that water can be considered as one of the most important elements of interrelation between the human cultural nature and its greater natural background. This study claims that water is an element of great importance in human experience, so that in a great era of cultural history, the societies tried to assimilate its qualities, by inventing a number of activities and constructions. The example of spas, consist a productive area for such a study. Our conclusions will underlie our choices during the elaboration of our diploma project.


Primarily, taking the knowledge concerning the natural scientific description of water for granted, we survey the symbolic presence of water in the composition of the cultural expression. Afterwards, we approach the human body as the mean with which we comprehend and communicate with our environment, ending up to the interrelation between this corporal presence with the element of water.

Thus, we follow the procedure within the individual, through the intercourse with the element of water, invents a cultural version of the nature of ones being, pointing out as a substance of this being, not a hypothetical forgotten origin, but the continuous close intercourse between natural material and the alteration of culture.

Afterwards, follows a brief report of the way within water gets involved with the urban environment and our everyday life, as well as the way through which the bathroom appears factitiously to be the space where the individual contacts with water and returns to the “nature”  of oneself. 


Opposing this impasse speculation, we place spas. Not trying to discover a more natural relation, but to describe conditions of increasing cultural pleasure, which ought to manage with the qualities of the different natural elements. Spas’ spaces can comprise the fecund field for the connection of cultural and natural components, which transform pleasure into a psychosomatic experience. In this point, we present three contemporary examples, within this connection is achieved. The annex is a short historical reference in spas’ development.




Water has a dreamy force apart from objective experiences. The water’s effect doesn’t stop short at its chemical ingredients impact on human organism. It’s an interaction between two entities, water and the individual, with dynamics close to their deeper nature. In this way, hygiene turns into poetry.

Our experience, our dreams and imagination are these which affect the way that we are initiated to the water experience. The staple is not the water as itself, but the way one imagines it, the meaning and the value that one refers to it.


Our body is the field within the physical components of the human kind exists and the cultural and social factors of the environment register. These elements are connected so closely that it’s impossible to test them as separate parameters of our existence. In the same way, whatever we comprehend as nature is nothing but the complication between the natural content and our culture. The water experience is exactly an expression of this complication.


Modern culture, in spite of the fact that it offers the opportunity of daily contact with water, renders this contact incomplete. In the bathroom, the human body contacts with water, but they never join. The individual who realize this, looks for different ways, different spaces, where his cultural and natural substance are able to coexist in harmony. Spaces where the relation between culture and nature is a relation of collaboration and completion. The substantial contact with water can not be defined as an experience free from the primitive needs of the human kind. If bath turns to poetry, this is firstly a cultural ritual, which modern individual, in several cases, keeps combining with the nostalgia for the lost primitive heaven.


The basic point of this essay is the admission that the relation with the human body and the relation with everything that we call nature are cultural decisions. In other words, there is no natural experience, no water experience and no body experience free from the culture that receives this experience.

We refer to water structure, symbolically, as well as practically. We refer to it architectural quality, metaphorically as well as literally. In this way, returning back to nature can be defined generally as its cultural reinvention and specifically, as its architectural redefinition. Whether concerning buildings or landscape architecture. The civilized nature of space identifies with architecture. In the same way, the civilized nature of human body identifies with its cultural redefinition. So, we suppose that the best bath for the cultural nature is the one that distinguishes by its best architecture.