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Investigations Into The Program and Typology of a Contemporary Public Thermal Bath House

This thesis presents an inquiry into the nature of and history behind public thermal bathhouses, as well as a design proposal for a new and uniquely site-based public thermal bathhouse structure, the form of which has been developed with an eye toward typology. The research and writings of this thesis explore the topic of public thermal bathhouses, both as historic phenomena and viable places of congregation still relevant and of great importance to healthy and vital contemporary communities. An effort has been made to demonstrate that written histories, archaeological landmarks, and contemporary international urban communities throughout the world provide ample documentation in support of the notion that public thermal bath houses both served and continue to serve an integral role within healthy, vital and sustainable cultures. The physical modeling, drawings and sketches of this thesis develop ideas about form and materiality, and explore and bring together discreet architectural phenomena into a singular, formal, proposal for a prototypical public bath house typology, one whose program and form are well suited to a contemporary small town within the United States. At present, the ritual of public bathing exists within the United States, at best, far outside main stream culture as a singular, sensational event such as a hot spring or a commercial, private day spa- neither of which retain any semblance of the core principals, typological rituals, degree of sensory immersion, or whole-body therapy that define the essence of a more traditional and timeless public bathing experience. It is the intention of this thesis to present a compelling case for why a public bathhouse not only could exist on the current American landscape, but moreover why it should, and if so, what form it might take.