The precious moments that lie between consciousness and sleep are instances that most people are keen to prolong. It is precisely this state of mind that Austrian artist and perceptions researcher Sha has been working on recreating. This ‘alpha state’, as Sha refers to it, can be reached from within the AlphaSphere Deluxe, his sensory space which has been installed for the first time at the Talise Spa in the Madinat Jumeirah resort in Dubai. The environment strives to recreate and heighten this ‘alpha state' for users. By combining fluctuating levels of sound, colour, light, vibration and warmth, Sha has created a space that effortlessly brings guests to a deep level of relaxation.
How does the AlphaSphere Deluxe differ from the original AlphaSphere?
Sha: The previous one was just a lounger. This is a space. Everything connected to the spatial experience is new: the elliptic curtain made from moray fabric, the program’s colours, which were inspired by chromotherapy, and the scent. I collaborated with Yogesh Kumar, an Indian scent expert to create unique smells, so now we have four different aromas for the four different programmes. This allows our clients to offer their guests many options which can also be combined with other treatments such as acupuncture, or massage.
Has the shape of the lounger changed much?
Not really, the shape still works. Of course, we experiment a lot with how to make it more comfortable for different body shapes and sizes. It is a wing shape that only makes contact with the ground at one point. The rest of the lounger is free. A lot of people say that during the experience, the lounger does not exist anymore.
The original AlphaSphere is in 300 locations in 35 countries. Are they all spas?
No. Around 45 per cent of the locations are spa hotels or design hotels. The rest are divided into therapy centres, medical clinics and offices. Of course, there are also a lot of private clients – but for private use, it is a costly thing to install. I intend to develop other solutions such as objects that are connected with a home environment and how we live. The AlphaSphere is a new category of products. It hasn’t existed until now and is, therefore, not easy to define.
How did you originally get involved in the spa and medicinal aspect?
It started with one person who saw the potential in it for a wellness centre. In 2006, we received the European Spa Award for Best Spa Product and I thought, this is not a spa product, but okay. We are always interested in new contexts. Spa treatments are fancy but not as ambitious as therapy practices. People visit therapists if something is not right. In the spa, it is more about beauty and anti-aging. There is not so much ambition so you can surprise in a new context. In the future, I would like to create one entire holistic spa where you can address what is done before and after treatments, if it is done with warm or cold water – that sort of thing. There is an opportunity to combine so many different sensory spaces – we are only at the very beginning.
Why do you think the AlphaSphere concept has been so successful commercially?
Probably because I am interested in its success. I put time and effort into strategy and how we communicate the concept. I think other artists and designers are not so involved in the moment when the user is connected with their work. I am really interested in the user and the effect.