serlachius museums’ art sauna bonds concrete, stone, & wood for sauna culture in finland

art sauna revisits traditional Finnish sauna culture


Architects Hector Mendoza, Mara Partida, Boris Bežan, and Pekka Pakkanen wanted to revisit the traditional wood and log sauna culture in Finland. They sought to understand the design of the sauna home from the log-clambered exterior to the bench-like wood seating inside. They thought of constructing an experiential sauna path where art, architecture, nature, and culture would appear evident inside and outside. They envisioned a space where people would talk, seek experiences, and create a sense of social togetherness. The end result is Art Sauna, an architecture in Finland that stands on the shore of Serlachius Museum Gösta and a sauna building that houses both art and design.


The architects define Art Sauna as a continuation of the emotional journey of the Serlachius Museums. The interior alone of the sauna features furniture from international designers such as Òscar Tusquets, Patricia Urquiola, Jasper Morrison, and Faye Toogood, brushing against the works of Finnish designers such as Alvar Aalto and Markku Sale. As the architects put it, the visiting experience is more than an act of observing art inside an ad-hoc space. It is an embrace of landscape, art, and architecture, chained to the new sauna space that extends that experience into a more delicate and domestic scale. Pakkanen, who acted as the chief designer and Finnish architect partner in the project, says that after examining the sauna process, the team built openings into the landscape to blend the materials with the surroundings.


‘The building complex, precisely embedded in the landscape park, rises from the slope as grooved concrete walls and opens out towards the lake as light infills built with oak. Concealing the building technology, the eaves and joint structures required by our challenging climate, and the extensions of the materials have challenged the skills of both the design team and the builders to the extreme,’ he says.

serlachius museums’ art sauna bonds concrete, stone, & wood for sauna culture in finland
images courtesy of Serlachius Museums | all photos by Marc Goodwin of Archmospheres Photography



Wood and concrete finish art sauna’s details


Serlachius Museums’ Art Sauna begins with the concrete and boxy structure of the exterior. The harsh tone of the design softens as warm light and wood pool inside, coupled with glasses that overview the abundant space visitors will step into. Wooden doors swivel instead of closing to confer a sinuous atmosphere, and hidden corners conceal benches, a sign to halt and sit to eye the architecture for a while. The interior personifies a dialogue of art, landscape, and architecture where tone and wood material give the surfaces an alternating rhythm: arching vaults of the lobby’s oak ceiling soften the straight lines of the stone finish.


The layout of the premises leads the sauna visitor on a journey characterized by light, nature, and art. The sauna hides on the slope that descends towards the lake shore, and a continuum of diagonal grooves sets the rhythm for the concrete surface of the building. A round steam room awaits at the journey’s end. Made of thermo aspen whose surface shines in various shades of brown, the sauna benches in the steam room reach the ceiling and create a mellow atmosphere. Rather than a rectangular layout, the architects opted out for a round-shaped steam room as a call to encourage a social setting. 

serlachius museums’ art sauna bonds concrete, stone, & wood for sauna culture in finland
entrance to the steam room



Commissioned works running along the space


Since art is featured in utility items of the sauna, it is no surprise that Satu Rautiainen’s large-scale commissioned work Birds’ Drinking Place (2022) adorns the wall of the lobby. The theme of the work is also repeated in sauna textiles designed by Rautiainen, and the artwork of the lobby has been created by Anni Rapinoja and Jussi Goman. In the shower rooms, a one may notice Sauna bathers created by Eric o. W. Ehrtröm. Art is also visible outdoors such as Tuula Lehtinen’s mosaic work titled Embrace (2022), among others.


The handprint of Antrei Hartikainen can be seen in the forms of the Bastone sideboard as well as in the scoops and sauna pails, which Hartikainen has designed for the Serlachius Art Sauna. Serlachius Museums’ Art Sauna has been nominated for the 2022 Finlandia Prize for Architecture, and the winner will be selected by Finnish film director Klaus Härö and announced on October 3rd, 2022.

serlachius museums’ art sauna bonds concrete, stone, & wood for sauna culture in finland
conrete and wood interior

serlachius museums’ art sauna bonds concrete, stone, & wood for sauna culture in finland
path leading to the sauna

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