Due to its specific characteristics, the architecture of the sauna is interesting because it gives us lessons related to efficiency and the beauty of simplicity. These are generally very basic structures with a clear function, created to contain different levels of heat and humidity. Thanks to this steam bath, people can release toxins and improve their blood circulation. In addition, they are widely used in cold climates, in close proximity to nature and utilizing the presence of water.
To function, these normally airtight spaces contain a series of internal benches with different dimensions and a heat source that must reach temperatures between 80 and 90°C, including, if necessary, a chimney to expel the smoke. Wood is the material par excellence for saunas, using in most cases native species that maintain their rustic appearance and natural texture. Next, we review 9 saunas designed by architects, including some of their construction details.
"Rough-cut lumber was repurposed from earlier structures on the property, used extensively for the exterior cladding, interior walls, and both interior and exterior benches. Even the new dimensional lumber used to cast the board-formed concrete was repurposed as rough framing. The cladding was charred on-site to avoid petroleum/chemical-based finishes."
"In this building, we have chosen to expose the construction and clearly show how the box is suspended under the large roof. (...) The facade and the wooden framework are made of untreated pine that over time turns gray and melts into the rocks. Altogether this gives the building a tectonic strong character."
"The sauna annex consists of a sauna with a self-designed aluminum bathtub and a wood stove. (...) Both the cabin and sauna are set on poles so that the whole construction is lifted above the ground."
"The selected concept 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."
"The characteristic silhouette of the structure is an architectural interpretation of the steep mountainsides surrounding the Bandak lake, while the wooden shingle cladding is inspired by local building techniques. The structure contains a sauna, a changing room, and a covered seating area for taking in the views."
"The project was designed and planned by an international student group at NTNU in the period February-May, culminating in a two-week construction period where the students, together with teachers and the owner experienced the challenges of building in a remote location. (...) The building is built in timber, with slender timber frames as the primary structural elements of the sauna. The bridge is constructed from massive wood elements fabricated by the students on the building site."
"The small building is built as a uniform volume, clad in larch wood. When not in use the house is completely closed, giving it an appearance of the archetypal house. When open, the warm un-weathered finish of the larch gives the sauna a friendly and welcoming character."
"The sauna structure is based on a nineteenth century barn which was moved to its present site in the 1940s. (...) In the renovations, rotten logs were repaired and the cladding replaced where necessary. The new ceiling, the terrace and the bridge are all in spruce which will turn grey with time."
"The interiors are cladded in Alamo, a kind of cottonwood tree, meanwhile the exterior is cladded in oak wood because of its strength in harsh weather conditions which will turn grey, similar to the original buildings in the area."
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