Designed by Hayball, with the landscape architecture and pool design taken care of by MALA Studio, the Alba Thermal Springs & Spa seeks to commit entirely to respecting the natural environment. With a desire to become Victoria’s most sought-after bathing and wellness experience, the centre’s unique approach to landscape design ensures they will go a long way towards achieving that reality.

The creation of a coastal-like landscape has taken nearly two years, with MALA taking the site from a rundown farm to an expansive ecology and high-end destination. The practice, with a nearby office in Sorrento, has ensured its site-led approach and passion for the peninsula landscape has been properly intertwined into the design.

“From its inception, the ethos behind Alba was based on finding synergies between the environment, community, culture and history,” says Alba General Manager Craig Dodd. 

“In appointing building architects and landscape architects, we had to find practices that could work together holistically to create a seamless indoor and outdoor experience.

“With building architecture and interiors by Hayball, and landscape architecture and pool design by MALA Studio, we are creating a wellness centre that effortlessly connects clients to themselves and to their environment.”

alba thermal springs and spa hayball mala studio

MALA Studio’s Founding Director, Campbell Morris outlines his affections for the site itself.

“I confess I’m in love with this site. Having grown up in the local area, the indigenous vegetation, rural context, and grasslands are warmly familiar and comforting. I wanted this design and planting to instill similar feelings of relaxation and calm in Alba’s guests and deliver unique-to-this-area experiences.

“The flip-side to this serenity and stillness is the fact that weather conditions can change dramatically and in an instant. It was important that the gardens not only reflect that wildness but be able to withstand such unpredictability and thrive in all elements.”

Alba Thermal Springs and Spa comprises 32 pools of varying sizes and purposes, with geothermal pools, cold plunge pools and herbal-infused botanical pools – set in some 15 hectares of garden. Every pool has been meticulously detailed by MALA, with each stone and concrete pool  expressing themselves differently in response to their setting and social purpose. Some pools are submerged in flowering meadows, some created as apertures to the sky, others are gently cradled within drifts of waving grasses. There are pools that are intentionally intimate and peacefully private, while others are social.

“This is very much an atmosphere-driven project, with water as the mood-setter,” says Morris. 

“Every area of the gardens has its own ambience, textures, palette, and theme, but it feels very natural and uncontrived. Each pool has its own space so that the bathers’ experience is undiluted.”

The landscape plan takes its cues from the existing terrain and vegetation, retaining and enhancing the existing coastal Moonah woodland. Regenerating the location’s native bushland is a key to Alba’s long-term vision for the garden, which will be at least 15 years in the making.

alba thermal springs and spa hayball mala studio

“We have engaged a nearby indigenous nursery to collect seed and propagate plants of local provenance. This will not only help us replace species lost due to past farming practices, but also encourage visitation and colonization from a wide diversity of birds, insects, and native wildlife,” says Peter Crawford, Landscapes and Grounds Director at Alba. 

The planting scheme will be undertaken in phases. Upper story trees will be first, followed by the middle canopy and then the fast-growing shrubs and bushes. The early establishment of ground covers and mass plantings of grasses and reeds are also important not just for beauty, but for weed and erosion control, and soil enrichment. Planting is well underway at the site, with a number of colourful, non indigenous plantations to be implemented.

“The construction of an in-house nursery in the coming months will ensure the ongoing evolution of a natural environment that fosters restoration and rejuvenation; it will be rewarding and exciting to watch,” Crawford says.

The Alba Thermal Springs and Spa is due to open in winter 2022. For more information, visit