Are saunas the hot new Scandi wellness trend this winter?

Winter 2016 was all about achieving ‘Hygge’, the Swedish notion of ‘cosy’, but as the trend for clean living and wellness entered the mainstream, the Nordic cultures remains ahead of the curve in 2017; The Building Centre investigates a renewed interest from architects, urban planners and retailers championing the health benefits of public sauna’s.

The health benefits of sweat

Finland has a long tradition of sweating out toxins and relaxing in the sauna or as the Finnish call it, ‘löyly’, meaning the steam that is produced when water is thrown on hot stones. In 2015 Finland even introduced a sauna emoji, demonstrating that saunas are hotter than ever.

Until the introduction of modern health facilities, Finnish women would traditionally give birth in saunas. Finland has a population of 5.3 million people and the average household has at least one sauna, meaning there roughly 3 million saunas in Finland, which can be found everywhere from the home to the office, to municipal buildings.

Sweat-baths are considered an effective method of flushing toxins from the body; boosting the immune system whilst encouraging healthy circulation, relaxing the muscles and protecting against respiratory diseases like pneumonia.

The benefits of the humble sauna extend further: research conducted by the University of Finland and the University of Bristol suggests that men who use a sauna at least twice a week were 27 percent less likely to develop respiratory problems than those who don’t.

1. Lonna Sauna, Lonna Island, Finland

Image courtesy of Jussi Tiainen for OOPEAA.

On the island of Lonna, sitting off the coast of Helsinki’s archipelago, Finnish architecture firm OOPEAA, in conjunction with the Governing Body of Suomenlinna, have transformed an old military base into a public sauna to provide a retreat from the pressures and pace of urban life.

Sea fortress to sauna and shopping

Image courtesy of Jussi Tiainen for OOPEAA.

Located on the south-eastern tip of the island, the 190 square metre smoke sauna is made predominantly of rough-hewed timber, brick, and features an angular zinc roof dotted with dormer windows. The island is home to a handful of buildings, constructed during the 19th century when the archipelago was under Russian occupancy and used as a sea fortress. They have since been converted into shops and restaurants to provide amenities for visitors to the sauna.


Image courtesy of Jussi Tiainen for OOPEAA.

The structure was built using traditional joinery techniques; the rough-hewn timber that wraps around the sauna’s exterior is left untreated – the yellowish hue establishing a striking visual effect against the sky and the sea. Inside, asymmetric high-vaulted ceilings are supported by timber beams. Saunas and changing rooms are positioned across different levels, offering a range of views over the sea. In the basement, the architects have deviated from the all-wood tradition and grey brick and brushed concrete provide a stylish and modern industrial aesthetic.

Image courtesy of Jussi Tiainen for OOPEAA.

The zinc roof establishes a dialogue with the metal gabled edifices of the island’s existing structures, while the dormer windows that extend from the roof provides tranquil vistas of the sea from the elevated, mezzanine level sauna, enabling sunlight to stream into the space.


Image courtesy of Jussi Tiainen for OOPEAA.

Lonna is only accessible by boat but the sauna runs a bus service from Helsinki to the ferry port. The cabin-like sauna sits atop a timber stepped terrace that leads up from the shore of a rocky beach, continuing a dialogue with the natural landscape and its materials.

2. Solar Egg, Kiruna, Sweden

Image courtesy of Bigert & Bergstrom.

The Solar Egg is a unique urban redevelopment project in the Swedish city of Kiruna, led by developer Riksbyggen in collaboration with architects Bigert & Bergstrom.

The 4x5m structure seats up to 8 people and temperatures can reach up to 85 degrees celsius. The exterior is clad in gold plated steel panels which reflect and refract the landscape and establish a natural typology with the icy surroundings, which in the words of the architects “evokes associations with the complexity spanned by today’s discussion about climate and sustainable community development.”

Image courtesy of Bigert & Bergstrom.

Communities who sweat together stay together

Image courtesy of Bigert & Bergstrom.

Open to the public, the project is designed to encourage the local community to integrate and boost the city’s residents overall sense of wellbeing.

Image courtesy of Bigert & Bergstrom.

The interior has been constructed using pine wood, with benches made with aspen arranged around a heart-shaped, iron cast and stone, wood burning sauna stove. The structure is modular and can be broken down into 69 components allowing for it be erected in numerous locations. The project is on display at the Swedish Design Moves Paris, a festival celebrating Swedish Design, from 15th of November to the 10th December.

Image courtesy of Bigert & Bergstrom.

3. Finnish Rooftop Sauna, Southbank Centre, London

Southbank Centre's Finnish Rooftop Sauna on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden (10 Nov - 30 Dec 2017) designed by MA students from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, with artwork by Jaakko Pernu, part of Nordic Matters and Wintertime. Credit David Levene. 

The Finnish Rooftop Sauna is currently open to the public this winter at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden as part of the Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters and Wintertime festival. The project was designed by MA Design students from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design in Helsinki, Finland and will be publicly accessible from the 10th November to the 30th of December.

Southbank Centre's Finnish Rooftop Sauna on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden (10 Nov - 30 Dec 2017) designed by MA students from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, with artwork by Jaakko Pernu, part of Nordic Matters and Wintertime. Credit David Levene. 

Remaining faithful to tradition, the Finnish Rooftop Sauna has been constructed using a light soft wood which when heated emits a comforting, woody aroma. The structure is lined with wooden seating and a perspex wall allows light to filter in during the dark winter months.

Southbank Centre's Finnish Rooftop Sauna on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden (10 Nov - 30 Dec 2017) designed by MA students from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, with artwork by Jaakko Pernu, part of Nordic Matters and Wintertime. Credit David Levene. 

Seating 16 people at a time, sessions will for 70 minutes — after which participants are invited to step outside into the fresh air and immerse themselves with cold water in order to have a truly authentic Finnish sauna experience and reap the maximum health benefits.

Traditionally, Finns use saunas in the nude but given the British public’s reserve, this sauna requires attendees to wear a swimsuit — changing rooms are provided.

Southbank Centre's Finnish Rooftop Sauna on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden (10 Nov - 30 Dec 2017) designed by MA students from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, with artwork by Jaakko Pernu, part of Nordic Matters and Wintertime. Credit David Levene. 

The Building Centre’s own Alex Charlton paid a visit and was particularly impressed by the “intimate modular design, fitted around one of London’s best rooftop locations.” He came away “refreshed, revitalised and curious about fitting a Finnish coal system in my shed.”

A programme of related talks, debates, and performances will also take place inside the sauna.

4. Mannerheimintie Burger King, Helskini, Finland

Image courtesy of Restel.fi.

We couldn’t showcase the coolest public saunas without paying lip service to a weird and wonderful sauna that popped up in Helsinki in 2015 at an unexpected location — Burger King.

Image courtesy of Restel.fi.

Designed by interior designer Teuvo Loman, the 10-seater, Burger King branded sauna was housed within the Mannerheimintie franchise in central Helsinki and features a shower room, toilet, and media lounge equipped with audio, television and a PlayStation 4.Visitors have their meals brought to them in the sauna.

Image courtesy of Restel.fi.

Sauna’s as a third space

In the face of online retail and increased automation, retailers and brands are becoming aware that they need to offer customers more than just a place to shop. Sportswear brand Lululemon has seen success in a crowded marketplace by offering in-store yoga classes, fitness consultations, and smoothie bar, in line with their commitment to championing health and wellbeing.

While enjoying a burger and sauna might be a step too far for many, perhaps we will start seeing more public sauna’s as the löyly trend continues to embed itself into the mainstream.
 

 





 

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