Saunas, spaces built for intense dry or wet heat sessions, are standard fare at hotels, spas and gyms worldwide.
In countries like Finland (where saunas were born 2,000 years ago), Italy, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Hungary & Poland, the rituals and facilities are often creative, deeply social and fabulous.
But the sauna experience outside Europe can frankly be rather “meh”: an uninspired, lonely experience in a spa or condo basement “box.”
Europeans know how to push this sweat experience, and that contrast therapy (taking a cold/snow plunge after, and repeating and repeating) is key to the health benefits, and to getting those endorphins pumping.
It’s positive for things like pain and cardiovascular impact. University of Eastern Finland study (2015) revealed that frequent time spent in saunas was associated with a longer life and less cardiacrelated deaths: people who visited a sauna 2-3 times a week had a 24% lower risk of death; those who sweated it out 4-7 times weekly were associated with a 40% mortality reduction.
Europeans themselves are dramatically reinventing the experience and have evolved sauna into a true event (called “Sauna Aufguss”) , a theater sauna culture.
In Northern, Central and
Eastern Europe, sauna
has been a culture and
an art for centuries,
with often spectacular
rituals and facilities. But
the sauna experience
elsewhere can frankly
be rather “meh”: an
experience in a hot “box.”
Europeans are now boldly reinventing
the sauna experience, with everything
from “Sauna Aufguss,” or sauna as a truly
theatrical event, to more extraordinary
and social sauna design. Sauna is getting
reinvented, and the new directions look to
Helsinki’s hip, high-design
new public sauna complex,
Löyly, shows the new
Image Source: Avanto Architects
the largest public
sauna in the world,
where 100 people
gather for “group
sweat-ins” (and music,
art and cocktails).
Image Source: salted.no via traveller.com.au
Creative Directions In Sauna Design
A current London Design Festival exhibition (Soak, Steam, Dream) reveals how a new generation of architects are rewriting sauna design.
The powerful trend: sauna as the new social, community-creating “hangout” (and a healthy and hot alternative to bars and restaurants).
In Gothenberg, Sweden’s new design-forward, port-side, public sauna, made of recycled, rusted steel, and built for “cultural debate, hedonism and business”
In Prague-based H3T Architekti’s quirky, sauna-is-for-everyone, mobile/pop-up concepts: from floating saunas in lakes or saunas hanging from bridges to saunas on wheels.
Helsinki, Finland’s stunning new public waterfront sauna complex, Löyly, a suave, eco-friendly pyramid composed of wooden slats, with the saunas (including an ancient, antioxidant Finnish smoke sauna), vast terraces, and restaurant all open to the sea. And where after a social steam you can jump in the harbor or through a hole in the ice in winter.
The Well (near Oslo, Norway), the Nordic region’s largest bathhouse. A new, sprawling, three-level fantasia of 15 saunas (from a jungle sauna to a cinema sauna to an Austrian loft sauna where Aufguss events are performed) – with 11 pools and 100 showers set to attract 100,000 daycationers a year.
The Norwegian cultural project SALT’s Arctic amphitheater sauna, the largest (and certainly one of the coolest) public saunas in the world, where 100 people gather for “group sweatins” on tiered benches facing the Norwegian Sea (looking out through a wall of glass) – all while experiencing theater, readings and art exhibits (or having a cocktail at the bar while grooving to Norwegian electronica.) A portable project, the vast SALT sauna is set to move to northern cities in places like Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Alaska and Russia after 2016.
The brand-new Hot Box Sauna, the first set on a Scottish loch (Loch Tay), with panoramic lake views, and an evening DJ area and bar.
The Future is Mental Wellness
Many new technologies are making possible a new “wellness architecture” – which is emerging as one of the most meaningful future wellness trends. Along with new standards that do for healthy-for-human building.
Wellness has disrupted the world of beauty almost beyond recognition. In order to look good, you have to feel good.
Future trend: social & fun experience, health & wellness, spa experience with art, culture, music, performance – ingenious new wellness architecture.
It means means “infusion” led by sauna-meisters serving up some serious entertainment to sweaty, happy audiences.
A true event (called “Sauna Aufguss”), which targets aromatherapy infusions using complex towel rituals to circulate heat, humidity and infusions.
All played to large, lively sauna “audiences” in spas across Austria, Germany, Italy, Finland and Norway.
Rituals are evolving into full-blown dance routines; wearing costumes and lead singing or chanting; they act out scenes from plays or movies;
Rituals include lights, music, lasers and smoke shows.
The new sauna theatre is packing in younger generations.
Special schools train Aufguss masters on the techniques of infusing the sauna with the most impactful series of volatile essential oils (lemon, mint, cedar, juniper, sage, & lemongrass.) which are then complexly circulated with towels or birch branches.
The new Sauna Aufguss sees sauna-meisters staging true “events” – from singing to dance routines – to
engage large audiences.
Image Source: Lasse Eriksen PowerPoint, Global Wellness Summit 2016
“Classic” Sauna Aufguss involves trained sauna-meisters using elaborate towel rituals to circulate an
orchestra of infusions.
Image Source: Lars Krückeberg PowerPoint, Global Wellness Summit 2016