While Europeans have long celebrated public baths, Americans have been more reluctant to embrace their many benefits. It’s no surprise, really, when you consider that they’re few and far between in the States. Groupo Aire, formed 15 years ago in Spain, is determined to change that with the recent opening of Aire Ancient Baths in New York City. Located in the stylish neighborhood of Tribeca, the spa is the debut U.S. outpost. The first was Aire of Sevilla (Seville, Spain), which was founded in a 16th-century palace where ancient Roman baths once stood. The name Aire was chosen because it was the name of the street where the Seville spa was situated. Now, locations can be found in Barcelona and Almeria (Spain). “Our baths are always located in historic buildings,” says spa director and co-owner Armando Prados. “The space synthesizes the intimate relationship between visitors and history.” The New York City bathhouse is set in a building that dates back to 1883. The Spanish architectural firm Alonso, Balaguer y Arquitectos Asociados designed the inviting space.
Inspired by the legacy of the Greek, Roman, and Ottoman baths, Aire Ancient Baths features several pools of varying temperatures: an ice pool (46 F), a cold pool (61 F), a warm pool (97 F), and a hot pool (102 F). There is also a salt pool, a propeller-jet bath (97 F), a steam room, and a relaxation room with hot marble stones. The baths are typically enjoyed in two-hour intervals, in which guests spend 90 minutes enjoying the various pools. In order to maintain a calm and relaxing setting, capacity is capped at 20 people per session.
Spa-goers may also enhance their experience with a 15-, 30-, 45-, or 60-minute massage. For a truly holistic experience, they may opt for one of Aire’s many rituals. Available for one or two people, the Red Wine Ritual ($450, 3 hours 30 minutes) involves a soak in red wine, a facial, a four-handed massage, the thermal circuit, and a cup of peppermint tea. Solo guests may also enjoy the Cava Ritual ($450, 3 hours 30 minutes) and the Olive Oil Ritual ($450, 3 hours 30 minutes). Both resemble the Red Wine Ritual but substitute the main ingredient. The Kerala Ritual ($500, 3 hours 30 minutes) can also be enjoyed by one or two people. Like the other rituals, it involves a relaxing bath with a choice of cava, citrus, milk, or wine. The second half of the ritual though is based on Ayurveda. It includes a facial massage using Oriental needles and a body massage with warm candle essential oils.
According to Prados, the concept behind Grupo Aire was to bring back ancient bathing rituals and make it an experience for the senses. The spa itself is designed to appeal to those looking for a relaxing experience in a unique environment. While the various pools are guaranteed to ensure relaxation, the historic building in which it’s located offers its own charms. Expecting to employ 50 part-time and 50 full-time employees, Prados anticipates the baths will be able to accommodate approximately 150 people each day. With plans to expand to other cities in the U.S., as well as South America, it won’t be long before more spa-goers discover the healing benefits of water.
Owner: Grupo Aire
Opened: June 2012
16,000 square feet;
5 treatment rooms
aromatherapy, Ayurveda, body treatments, couples’ treatments, facials, hydrotherapy, massage, watsu
Red Wine Ritual ($450, 3 hours 30 minutes)
MOST EXPENSIVE OFFERING
Kerala Ritual ($500, 3 hours 30 minutes)
Nacho Alonso, Alonso, Balaguer y Arquitectos Asociados (Barcelona, Spain)
Lucia Puron (New York City)