Skip to main content

Double Vision | Resort & Spa


Double Vision in resorts and spas is generally created via the reflective medium of water in indoor or outdoor pools.


Double Vision identifies the phenomenon of highly reflective, smooth surfaces creating an inverse image of objects that are adjacent and perpendicular to them.1 An immediate proximity between the object and reflecting surface is necessary for the desired result of a duplicated image within the space, thus creating the visual effect of Double Vision. Regardless of scale, whether it is skyscrapers around a lake or trellises around a fountain, “the quieted water doubles the shape of the space by illusion.”2 There is no definitive end or beginning between the physical and reflected object, effectively portraying a continuum of space and infinite matter.

The technique of Double Vision originated with the use of pools, as the reflected objects surrounded the water. Roman palestra, or open-air gardens in courtyards, contained pools that were among the first to visually double the spatial experience, reflecting the traditional architecture, particularly the robust columns.3 Ensuing Muslim and Moorish architecture, particularly the Court of the Myrtles (14th century) at the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain, used expansive reflecting pools to reflect the thin columns of ceremonial pavilions in the late 17th century.4 Furthermore, in Japanese architecture, “the mirroring effect of reflected light on water’s surface has been a hallmark of the traditional Japanese water garden.5 There is an inherent verticality in Double Vision that is a result of the perpendicular relationship between architecture and water.

Although Double Vision has branched over the centuries to include glass and polished floors in residential, among other, interiors, its essence is best captured in the reflective nature of water. Exterior pools at resorts and spas that exhibit Double Vision are often incidental, mirroring trees or the architecture of the facility by coincidence. However, interior applications of Double Vision require strategy in terms of what exterior views or architectural details will be reflected. Columns appear to be the most often reflected objects, similar to the Court of the Myrtles, as well as clerestory windows and the subsequent view to outside. In spaces with lower ceilings or dark furnishings, the visual elongation of the space alleviates the feeling of density. Some architects, such as the Carr Design Group, employ Double Vision in a playful manner, using the reflection of a curved handrail to create a perfect circle in the pool of the Westin Melbourne Hotel (2000) in Australia.

Due to the necessary proximity between reflected and reflective entities, Double Vision is often a result of the Fluid Floor intype. Although there are several crossover examples, they differ as Fluid Floor places little emphasis on reflection, focusing instead on the sensory relationship between people and their surroundings, particularly the verticality of a space. There are rarely windows or natural light in examples of Fluid Floor, and encircling architecture is solid and stoic. Double Vision occurs in confined spaces with visual stimuli along the perimeter of the water, using optical illusion to impart spatial intervention.7

end notes

  1. 1) Marta R. Méndez, “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary House Design” (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2008), 89-90.
  2. 2) Lou Michel, Light: The Shape of Space, Designing with Space and Light (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996), 48.
  3. 3) John C. Paige and Laura Soulliere Harrison, Out of the Vapors: A Social and Architectural History of Bathhouse Row: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1988), 3.
  4. 4) John Pile, A History of Interior Design (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2005), 71.
  5. 5) Michel, Light: The Shape of Space, Designing with Space and Light, 48.
  6. 6) Evidence for the archetypical use and the chronological sequence of Double Vision in resort and spa was developed from the following sources: 1970 Interior Pool, Hotel Marina Palace [1978] Jaakko and Unto Rantonen; Helsinki, Finland in Henry End, Interiors 2nd Book of Hotels (New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1978), 81; PhotoCrd: Simo Rista / 1990 Indoor Pool, Hotel Primier Minowa [1990] Kanko Kikaku Sekkeisha, Designer; Fukushima, Japan in Resort Hotels: Architecture and Interiors (Tokyo, Japan: Sigma Union, 1990), 131; PhotoCrd: Anonymous; Spa, Manila Diamond Hotel [1994] Hirsch Bedner; Philippines in Justin Henderson, "The Manila Diamond Hotel," Interiors 153, no. 11 (Nov. 1994): 63-69; PhotoCrd: Robert Miller; Corridor, Therme Vals [1996] Peter Zumthor; Vals, Switzerland in "Primal Therapy," Architectural Record 202, no. 1206 (Aug. 1997): 45-49 / 2000 Pool, W Sydney [2000] W and Westin Design; Sydney, Australia in Jen Renzi, "The Power of Hospitality: Starwood's Star Turn," Interior Design 74, no. 3 (Mar. 2003): 246; PhotoCrd: Starwoods Hotels and Resorts Worldwide; Pool, Cowley Manor Hotel and Spa [2002] De Matos Storey Ryan; Renovations, Cowley Manor (1850; c1880) UK in Shan Kelly, "Cotswolds Cool," Interior Design 73, no. 10 (Oct. 2002): 232; PhotoCrd: Ken Hayden; Pool, 7 Sources Beauty and Spa at Lenkerhof [2002] Raumforum, Balmer and Krieg; Lenk, Switzerland in Michael Reinhardt, Spa Design (Kohn: Daab, 2006), 243; PhotoCrd: Michael Reinhardt; Corridor, Park Hotel Weggis [2002] Aldoplan AG, Vadian Metting van Rijn in collaboration with Vincenz Erni; Weggis, Switzerland in Spa Design, 26; PhotoCrd: Fabrik Studios; Pool, Vigilius Mountain Resort [2004] Studio Thun; South Tyrol, Italy in "Sleeping in Style," Architectural Record 192, no. 8 (Aug. 2004): 138; PhotoCrd: Design Hotels; Pool, Four Seasons Hotel [2005] Gabor Kruppa, Formanyelv and Richmond International; Adaptive Use, Private House (1827); Gresham Palace (1903); Budapest, Hungary in Annie Block, Zsigmond Quittner and Jozsef Vagom, Architects; "Once Upon a Palace," Interior Design 76, no. 8 (June 2005): 244; PhotoCrd: Douglas Friedman; Pool, Hotel Remota [2006] German del Sol; Puerto Natales, Chile in "Artful Lodgers," Architectural Record 194, no. 12 (Dec. 2006): 140; PhotoCrd: MacDuff Everton; Spa, Dolder Grand [2008] Foster and Partners and United Designers; Zurich, Switzerland in Craig Kellogg, "The Dolder, Bolder," Interior Design 79, no. 8 (June 2008): 274; PhotoCrd: Edmund Sumner/View; Pool, Cotswolds Hotel and Spa [2002] De Matos Storey Ryan; Cowley Manor, UK in "Underground Waters," Architectural Review 214, no. 1275 (May 2003): 87; PhotoCrd: David Grandorge.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Goldfarb, Rachel. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Resort and Spa Design.” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2008, 39-44.