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Spa & Leisure Building, Hotel Europe

  • Architect:
    Gottstein Architects
  • Award Type:
    Best Building in the Landscape 2009
  • Location: Munster
Spa & Leisure Building, Hotel Europe


A long-established hotel has transformed its relationship with its dramatic setting – the new spa is contained in a subterranean world beneath a landscaped courtyard surrounded by the existing hotel. The sensual underground spaces of the spa engage with Lough Leane in a direct and unexpected way, bringing the whole of the complex into a new and satisfying relationship with the landscape – not looking out at, but actually part of, its dramatic setting.


The Client’s brief was to integrate some 4,500sqm of Spa and Leisure accommodation into the site whilst maintaining the view and connection to the lake enjoyed by the existing hotel facilities and bedrooms.

As the hotel is located within a Prime Special Amenity Area, much consideration was given to how to minimize the visual impact of the new building on the site. The approach was to carve the building out of the hill, creating a series of stone 'boulders' that emerge from the landscape and stretch towards the foreshore of the lake, echoing the surrounding geological forms and imagery of the glaciated valleys.

Inside, the spa is experienced as a sanctuary within the hill. The largely subterranean environment is expressed as a contrast of dark and light, density and void. Internal courtyard gardens are 'scooped' out of the plan - bringing natural daylight deep into the building whilst allowing places for private contemplation.


The Europe Hotel and Resort is a 5 star hotel that first opened its doors in 1961. The most spectacular aspect of the hotel is its unique setting overlooking McGuillycuddy Reeks mountain range beyond.

In planning for the future, it was decided that the hotel would benefit greatly from the introduction of a new spa and, due to the layout of the existing buildings and guest rooms, the obvious choice for its location was in the centre of the garden facing the lake. This was a cause of major concern to the owners of the hotel, the Liebherr family, and the management of the hotel, all of whom wanted to ensure that the building would not diminish the existing view from the hotel or become an eye-sore on the landscape when viewed from the lake.

One of the critical elements of the project was the selection of the architectural team that could bring with it an understanding of the environment that they were working in and deliver the ultimate guest experience by creating an extensive new spa and leisure building that would be unparalleled in terms of facilities and luxury, whilst maximizing the natural setting.

Numerous architectural practices from within Ireland and abroad were approached and asked to forward their proposals. Finally it was decided to award the project to Gottstein Architects as we felt that this young dynamic team brought with them a clear understanding of how we wanted the project to interact with the local landscape, that their design reflected the forms and colours of this landscape while at the same time connecting the pools and relaxation rooms to the lake.