LocationSeattle, WA, United States
Project TeamJon Gentry AIA, Aimée O’Carroll ARB
EngineerKevin Winner, Swenson Say Faget
Text description provided by the architects. The idea for the floating sauna was born on a cold and wet winter’s. Combining our love of the water, the relaxing dry heat of saunas, and floating structures, the project began to take shape. We focused on primal concepts of fire, water, and community. We were searching for a way to engage the water surrounding our city, enticing visitors onto the lakes year round. We called this project ‘wa_sauna’ and felt it would be a welcome addition to the Pacific Northwest landscape and its adventurous people.
wa_sauna engages the ideas of journey and discovery; creating a unique experience and refuge on the water that offers a different perspective on the landscape. Boaters and kayakers can venture out and tie off to the surrounding deck, allowing for the sauna tradition to take place on Seattle’s lakes.
The project was funded through the support of the local community and a crowdfunding campaign. In the same spirit of crowdfunding wa_sauna, the project was built by our studio and a team of talented volunteers, all with close connections to the architecture community and unique construction skills. We were generously donated a large space in the production warehouse of Hilliard’s Beer for the fabrication of wa_sauna.
Maneuvering a 14’ high, 4,500lb structure from the warehouse to the public boat ramp and into the water was a challenging process. Towed on 6 steel casters with a 1980 VW Vanagon, we slowly crept along at dawn making the 8 block trip to the boat ramp in just under 3 hours. The contrast of steel casters on rough gravel and pavement to the feeling of this structure gently floating was the most exciting moment of the build process.
wa_sauna can now be seen regularly on Lake Union and Lake Washington. The sauna is a registered vessel, powered by an electric trolling motor with (3) 12-volt batteries and heated by a wood burning stove. Quietly exploring the lakes, wa_sauna allows users to find peace and quiet in the warmth of the sauna, with endless unique views of Seattle and sounds of the fire crackling and the gentle water around them.