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  6. Grotto Sauna / Partisans

Grotto Sauna / Partisans

  • 01:00 - 7 December, 2014
Grotto Sauna / Partisans
Grotto Sauna / Partisans, © Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

© Jonathan Friedman © Jonathan Friedman © Jonathan Friedman © Jonathan Friedman +35

  • Design Team

    Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash, Jonathan Friedman, Shamir Panchal, Ivan Vasyliv, Betty Vuong, Nathan Bishop
  • Contractor

    Jordan Construction, Chantler Barging
  • Lighting Consulting

    G2J Design Inc
  • Project Management

  • More SpecsLess Specs
© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

From the architect. The blue waters of Lake Huron—located north of Toronto— complement its majestic surroundings and offer a dream-like location for a retreat. A sensual environment, its serene landscape reminds the temporary dwellers of the harmony that exist beyond human possibilities. When PARTISANS team met on site, with a new client for designing and constructing a potential Sauna, they knew that their most prominent challenge was to make a free-standing structure that not only respected, but also matured from the context.

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

Located within the Georgian Bay, the site is a prehistoric large-scale rock formation. Contemplated research was conducted, and through the process a Grotto was set as an inspiration that would inform the design. Grottos, historically, have been known as natural or artificial caves that are embedded deep behind the curvature of streams, and thus discovered by those who would take the time to explore.

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

Understanding the age-old rock, intimately, was the first step toward architecture. As a cascading granite cliff shaped by glaciers into a peninsula, the rock offered both new possibilities and an unobstructed view of the horizon. National Geographic has ranked the sunsets on this site as one of the best in the world. And we were determined to preserve and enhance the experience of it.

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

The team scanned the rock, using a Leica 3D laser scanner to create multiple CNC’d models in differing scales and materials. Subsequently, an unconventional process of design-play took place, and everyone in our studio collaborated in sculpting the Grotto. Out of roughly fifteen completely different ideas only 4 made the most sense; and the clients—adventurous at heart—selected a scheme that presented both excitement and challenges for the team.

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

The selected concept for the Grotto prescribed a solid, simple presence on the exterior, while the interior followed dynamic air movements in curvature forms; requiring design solutions. As a result we proceeded to experiment further with the materials, and selected wood, due to its specific properties, as the primary medium.

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

Challenging the standards of current practices in the construction industry, we worked directly with a millwork and steel fabrication partner, MCM Inc., on every detail. Together, we developed a new process of fabrication; utilizing state of the art 3-D technology to scan, model and build the Grotto. The process led to a new-found understanding for the properties of materials. Creating the illusion of a carved interior, we formed the specially selected cedar timber into panels with parallel grains

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

As a free-standing sauna, the Grotto uses two high performance ovens that ensure efficiency and control. There are vents and fans in-place that allow the building to breathe seasonally and prevent rot or mold in the structure. The rest of the systems were based on controlled air flow. We used insulation on the building to not only protect its components from heating up or cooling down too quickly, but also to make the Grotto more energy efficient.

Floor Plan
Floor Plan

The specific type of wood, Cedar, was then selected based on a number of factors; such as resistance to rot, aroma, colour, local sources, and quality. The openings were fabricated here in Ontario using double and triple glazed high efficiency annealed glass to ensure high energy savings and durability. Furthermore, the internal structure of the Grotto was tightly sealed and a layer of energy efficient aluminum foil was adhered to all internal surfaces creating a convective air plenum between the internal wood panels and the space in which they were mounted. This allows for the wood to expand and contract evenly with even heat movement all around.

© Jonathan Friedman
© Jonathan Friedman

The space behind the wood panels created convection currents that allow the skin to breathe through the ventilation pores that were carved into seats and seams of the cedar panels. The result is a sculpted space, a sensual experience, and a sophisticated exercise in building science.

Cite: "Grotto Sauna / Partisans" 07 Dec 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Prof Ox · January 23, 2016

Oh the many fallacies of ornament... The section works well without hobbit gymnastics.

ExtraCashOnline · December 12, 2014

Suana with a view!

Yoav Ickowicz · December 10, 2014

spectacular project!

angra · December 09, 2014

Nice technique.
Panels are glued with epoxy into the mounting holes, or it is by bolts from the other side?

Guest · December 08, 2014

I agree with the previous statement. This is almost a direct copy of Snohetta's work. Check it out:

Chris · December 09, 2014 02:10 PM

It's embarrassing to Architecture how many times people comment about plagiarism on this site and others, and it would be a waste of my time to explain to you how wrong you are. Do you know what "direct copy" means? Is a burrito a "direct copy" of a sandwich because they both used a carbohydrate-based wrapper to contain things that would be otherwise difficult to eat with your hands?

The gap between "direct copy" and inspiration is enormous and you should educate yourself on the craft of architecture and design before you chime in with inane suggestions that try to devalue creative work.

Don't be afraid to take ideas from others, and don't think for a second that you don't already.

Here is a quote from Jim Jarmusch that you could learn from:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that
resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films,
new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random
conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds,
bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from
that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft)
will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is
non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it
if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard
said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them

guest · December 08, 2014

all the conceptual sketches could be substituted for the snohetta reindeer pavilion. ripping off and producing emotional sketches afterwards. Architecture is the only field of art where plagiarism can reach very high level.

snarkitect · December 08, 2014 06:00 PM

architecture often uses the same patterns and forms, and always has. greek temples, cathedrals, shrines, vernacular styles, even ranch houses. it's not a spitting image of the reindeer pavilion, it just uses the same technique. there's nothing wrong with that.

Filipe · December 08, 2014

I have seen some similar works in wood in Norway... What kind of programm is used to design this? I mean, in terms of shapes and details. Is it Rhino or something? Can we actually design it and build it without BIM system?

Chester · December 08, 2014 04:55 PM

You could carve it by hand

Guest · December 08, 2014

What kind of programm is used to design this? I mean, in terms of shapes and details. Is it Rhino or something?

mies · December 08, 2014 06:20 PM

why do you care how it is built if you have already written it off as derivative work?

Jacob Sean Kalmakoff · December 08, 2014

Bloody good work Prof. Josephson


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© Jonathan Friedman

岩穴桑拿房 / Partisans