Following a ten-year renovation programme, the former 12th century Spanish Abadía Santa Maria de Retuerta monastery featuring Romanesque and Baroque architecture was reopened in 2015 as a five-star luxury hotel and underground spa. After the architects had successfully translated the austere qualities of the mediaeval building into a modern formal language to suit its new usage, it was up to the lighting designers to develop a consistent lighting concept that would respect the historic nature of the complex while aligning to the use of the converted building located in the romantic landscape of the Ribera del Duero wine region.
For the lighting designers, the architecture and design of the old monastery building with only sparse incident daylight, presented a special challenge. The lighting design was to underscore the architectural complexity of the prestigious building and at the same time use light to adequately represent its historical context. And this is what the project was all about. On the one hand, the goal was not to superimpose a 21st century solution onto a former monastery and do away with the genius loci of the place, but on the other hand, the atmosphere was to reflect an ambience suitable for a high-quality hotel. The architecture was not to be distorted by a modern-day lighting solution or to take a back seat in the overall impression of the location. The solution lay in underscoring the texture of the stone surfaces and positioning luminaires to harmonise with
the rhythm of the surrounding cloisters. The designers clearly opted to base their design on a luminaire solution rather than integrating a lighting solution into the culturally significant architecture.
To avoid the installation of the lighting equipment interfering even minimally with the building fabric of the historic landmark, the team of lighting designers developed a diverse range of custom luminaires made of solid bronze. Manufactured by a bronze factory in Bavaria, the material and feel of the luminaires are creatively inspired by the atmosphere in the monastery, revealing their contemporary origin through their design and the use of LED technology.
The lighting of the long monastic corridors and the cloister follows a consistent principle. Direct/indirect wall-mounted luminaires illuminate the cloister vault and the light-coloured stone floors, providing rhythm to the elongated spaces. Thanks to fine brass wire fabric attached to the underside of the luminaire the light is soft and warm, and at the same time prevents any direct view of the light source. The wall sconces are supplemented by free-standing luminaires with screens consisting of four fanned-out bronze panels, the polished inner surfaces of which reflect golden light into the space.
The former church in the monastery now accommodates various events. The lighting system can respond flexibly to the different uses with individually programmed light scenes that can be recalled as required. The nearly twelve metre high groyne vault is gently illuminated from the capitals with dimmable surface-mounted LED spotlights. This creates a well-balanced luminance ratio in the room, while enabling the visitor to perceive
and appreciate the height of the ceiling. The altar, baptismal font and apses are accentuated using directional spotlights. Glare has been controlled by applying snoots to the indirect spotlights and honeycomb louvres to the direct spotlights.
The space where the monks once broke bread, now houses an elegant restaurant. Free-standing luminaires with bronze coloured shades line the sides of the space and serve as a link between the human-scale dinner guest level and the ten metre-high groyne vaults. The luminaires are equipped with two light sources which can be switched separately to provide warm white direct / indirect light to graze the surfaces of the ancient stone surfaces of the walls and vaulted ceiling. The large-scale fresco is illuminated using a discreetly mounted direct spotlight.
The wine bar offers the guests a chance to taste wines and dine. The bronze material used for the luminaires formed the basis for the interior design of the space. One of the walls is clad with bronze sheet metal panels. This relief-like wine-bottle wall is accentuated using gimbal-mounted directional spotlights. The warm white light brings out the quality of the bronze and red stucco walls, creating an appropriate atmosphere.
The wine cellar itself is located beneath the wine bar, where the barrel vault ceiling and wine bottle shelves are accentuated with light. The specially designed fixture is made of an arched bronze bracket adapted to the radius of the vault, and a cylindrical bronze socket. The form of the luminaire and the golden light of its unshielded carbon filament lamps, is reminiscent of candle holders, which again recalls the original lighting solution. For maintenance and design reasons, the
lighting concept for the guest rooms was to be applied to all standard rooms. The general lighting in the room is achieved using a smaller version of the bronze wall sconce, as well as via bronze free-standing luminaires and table lamps. In addition to the diffuse radiant LED retrofit lamp, a reflector lamp has been added for direct illumination of the desk surface. Adjustable bronze reading lamps are positioned on either side of the bed.
Behind the central partition wall is the open-plan bathroom. The mirror is framed by two linear wallmounted luminaires that deliver soft, flattering light. A bronze downlight is installed above the bath in the ribbed ceiling.
The fitness and yoga room with its compact room proportions posed a special challenge for the lighting design. The low-ceilinged spaces are uplit warmly using floor lights with beige textile shades. These luminaires were developed by the lighting designers as a modification of the wall lights in the hallways. The luminaire is equipped with four PAR20 lamps mounted at two separate angles to provide optimum illumination of the ceiling. The light underscores the length of the space, directing attention towards a seated Buddha statue, which is in turn accentuated using a warm white flush-mounted LED downlight.
The hotel guest accesses the basement via the "Caballerizas" stairwell, bronze wall-mounted direct/ indirect fixtures lighting the way. The entrance zone
to the spa area features punchy light from cylindrical ceiling-mounted luminaires. Thanks to their bronze finish they align nicely with the wall luminaires, a golden reflector radiating warm-coloured light into the space.
A view of the indoor pool is already visible from the lobby through an opening in the wall. A skylight opening directly above the pool allows an abundant flow of incident daylight into the underground space. In addition, both the pool area and the lobby are decorated with playfully arranged pendant luminaires, suspended at different heights throughout the space.
Underwater luminaires are mounted along the sides of the pool. At the end of the pool there is a very narrow window to the reception. The window has received a waterfall effect to prevent views in both directions. Linear lighting lends the curtain of water a soft shimmer.
The ceiling mounted luminaires used in the entrance zone are arranged rhythmically along the corridors. The luminaires in this part of the building blend in well with the ceiling design and emit warm light via their golden reflectors.
The surface-mounted downlights in the corridors are arranged in pairs, a lighting layout which is reiterated in the changing rooms. There they are supplemented by mirror lighting. Small, solid glass luminaires are likewise positioned in pairs on either side of the rectangular mirrors.
In order not to undermine the guests’ feeling of comfort and well-being, no light sources have been mounted directly above the treatment couches in the massage rooms. Pairs of cylindrical ceiling lights, again mounted in pairs, illuminate the functional zones, and directional spotlights are installed in the ceiling niches along the outer wall. These illuminate the curtained wall sections between the windows, thus creating a friendly atmosphere.
Relaxation areas are located between the indoor pool and the patios. A special feature in these spaces are the "Guadamecies", traditional large-format wall panels, which are attractively underscored using surface mounted luminaires equipped with golden reflectors. In addition, localised lighting around the loungers is provided by small, portable diffuse light objects featuring wooden frames and leather straps.
At the heart of both patios there are shallow basins, so-called reflecting pools. These are deliberately not accentuated with light to allow them to reflect the architecture, landscaping and surrounding light. On the southern patio, the pool is enclosed by a hedge which is gently illuminated after dark using luminaires mounted on stakes. In contrast, the sections of wall on the facades on the northern patio are uplit by in-ground luminaires.
In general, little lighting has been added to the exterior areas, given that the rural location of the hotel and spa is highly sensitive with regard to light pollution. The concept comprises soft light penetrating through openings in the buildings and terrain from below; custom designed historic wall lights reflect the formal language of classical lanterns, and mark the main and side entrances to the building. These deliver localised, cosy light at the patio doors along the facade of the "Caballerizas". The bollards, also developed as part of the custom designed family of luminaires, line the driveway. They comprise a standard fixture with a Fresnel lens, which has received a bronze hood and is set on a stone pedestal. The four openings in the hood have received a delicately lasered ornamental grid.
A small version of the bollard provides discreet, literally low-level lighting along the paths in the hotel courtyard. The facade of the old monastery is gently illuminated using in-ground luminaires to generate an appropriately serene impression. The outdoor pool of the spa is illuminated on one side using underwater lights. These are arranged so that the light sources can not be directly seen from the loungers around the pool.
The lighting ambience of Hotel and Spa Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine invites visitors to stay and relax by generating a simultaneously hospitable and festive atmosphere. At the same time, the lighting is sensitively integrated into the existing historical buildings and the new elegant architectural interventions, while contributing to the sum of the surrounding rural location.
The quality of the lighting and the atmosphere in and around the hotel and spa complex benefits immensely from the consistent luminaire design and the predominant use of state-of-the-art LED technology where it makes sense and does not distract from the historic relevance of the site. The lighting in the various hotel spaces can be tuned to align with functional requirements and the desired atmosphere. In the spa area,
the lighting scenes and levels are controlled via daylight sensors and an astronomical clock. The rooms are transported naturally and subtly from a daytime to an evening atmosphere, the technology also contributing to the mindful use of energy and resources.
Hotel: Marco Serra Architekt, Basel/CH Spa: Diener & Diener Architekten, Basel/CH Interior design:
Hotel: Marlene Doerrie, Milan/IT
Spa: Michele Rondelli, Zurich/CH
Licht Kunst Licht, Bonn/Berlin/DE
Hotel: Team headed by: Martina Weiss
Project team: Isabel Ehm, Thomas Möritz, Andreas Schulz
Spa: Team headed by: Martina Weiss
Project team: Naiara Caballero, Thomas Möritz, Laura Sudbrock, Andreas Schulz
Project management: Burckhardt + Partner AG