Behind an auto repair shop in an industrial pocket of Collingwood, a converted warehouse conceals a self-contained sanctuary. Its slick mirrored threshold swings open to reveal an oasis of relaxation: subdued lighting, ambient music and an elliptical space undulating with curved walls.
A first-time floater, I arrive for my appointment at Beyond Rest with a fairly limited understanding of the practice. Pushing visions of alien contraptions aside, I remove my shoes, and a barefoot attendant welcomes me into my private pod room. The wet area is tiled floor-to-ceiling in a manner suggestive of traditional Japanese bathrooms, with walls curving around the egg-shaped pod, creating a womb-like effect.
A sign on the door reads ‘Expect Nothing’. I get in the pod.
Introducing Australia to a method of relaxation already popular overseas, brothers Nick and Ben Dunin founded the first Beyond Rest in Perth in 2012, bringing their architect sister Fiona on board to create a design language for the brand as they expanded to Melbourne and Brisbane.
“We decided that we needed to develop something that expressed what you can achieve with floating, through design,” says Fiona Dunin, of FMD Architects. Inspired by the work of architect Michael Rice, an expert in Sacred Geometry, the team looked to evoke the relaxing softness of organic forms at Beyond Rest.
“It’s all about taking inspiration from patterns found in every living thing,” says Nick. “The way the centre is designed is ultimately to create a sense of awe and relaxation, to help calmness descend in a natural way.”
Each centre is unique, with subtle nuances designed to reflect its surroundings. “We’re always looking at what we can do to represent a sense of locality – whether it’s through light fittings, or cladding, or whether we work out of a warehouse versus a shop front,” says Fiona. What unites them is a meandering spatial plan which enhances a fluid transition from daily life into the ultimate Zen state.
Back inside the pod, a blue light switches off, and I am afloat in complete darkness. 500 kilos of salt dissolved in a shallow bath replicates near Dead Sea conditions, so that even the least buoyant punter will have no choice but to float. Heated to body temperature, after some time it is difficult to tell where my body ends and the water begins. How does it feel? Like pure, detached consciousness. And afterwards, a deep stillness which followed me as I floated off home.
Words by Sandra Tan