Sauna bathing is an essential part of Finnish culture and national identity. There are only 5,4 million Finns but 3,3 million saunas. Public saunas used to be common in bigger cities but now that most new apartments have sauna of their own, public saunas have decreased dramatically in number. There are only a couple remaining. As a sense of community is becoming a more and more important part of new urban culture, many new public saunas are being planned. With Löyly (meaning the steam that comes when you throw water on hot stones in a sauna) Helsinki will offer foreign visitors a public sauna experience all year round – a must when visiting Finland.
The project started from the city of Helsinki initiative. Hernesaari is a former industrial area on the Helsinki seashore that is being developed into a residential area. New uses are being developed for the area, while waiting for future changes to come. There is a cruise ship harbor in Hernesaari and the city wanted to activate the area with new functions and to serve visitors with new attractions. We started the project in 2011 designing a temporary sauna village at the furthermost end of the peninsula. The concept didn’t prove financially sustainable so the first client quit the project. We developed a floating sauna with the second client but the concept proved impossible as the site faces the open sea and a floating structure couldn’t withstand high waves and pressure from ice packs. The coastline will change with future development, but the city chose an area where the shoreline will remain as it is currently. We developed a new free form concept with triangular faces. The client changed once again and as actor Jasper Pääkkönen and Member of Parliament Antero Vartia finally got funding, the construction works could begin.