Coming in from the cold

13 December 2012 | This 'n' that

Kulttuurisauna in Helsinki: design by Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi

Kulttuurisauna, ‘The culture sauna’, will soon be opened in Helsinki as a part of the World Design Capital 2012 programme. The idea was developed into a project by architect Tuomas Toivonen and designer Nene Tsuboi, a Finnish-Japanese couple who will also run the sauna.

‘When we started considering the idea of building a public sauna in Helsinki, I realised that my dream job is to run a public sauna – offering people a place for cleansing, bathing and sharing quiet togetherness. We have been working in the field of design and architecture for 10 years now, and felt that we can use all of our skills in this project, developing a new public sauna in Helsinki; as a building, as a service and as an environment. By doing this, we want to contribute to the city, participating in making Helsinki more interesting and enjoyable’, says Tsuboi.

The energy system, utilising bio and solar energy. has been developed together with the energy enterprise Fortum; the carbon footprint will be close to zero.

This new cultural landmark is situated on the Merihaka shore, close to the city centre, facing west. Swimming is possible both in summer and in winter – when it is just dip in a hole in the ice. The sauna will be open five days a week, with separate dressing rooms for men and women. (The ancient Finnish tradition of cleansing allows only male and female members of the same family to sit naked in the heat and, optionally, beat themselves and each other with birch twigs.)

Public saunas used to be quite popular in Helsinki in the last century, and some still exist – our favourite is the neo-classical Yrjönkatu Street baths in the centre of town – but have decreased since the number of swimming halls and built-in saunas in apartments started to rise. So now, finally, it seems that even cool design world has begun to value the potential lure of this invention – the name of which is probably the only word that Finnish has contributed to international use. It looks like Kulttuurisauna will be a fresh addition to the capital’s sauna scene.

The designers’ blog describes the project in detail, in words and pictures.

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