Commissioned to design a sauna building for a bucolic estate on the Hudson River, we were asked to create a structure that did not intrude upon a site with early-twentieth-century barns, greenhouses, and a grand estate house from the 1940s. The structure also had to accommodate the various pumps and equipment for an existing outdoor swimming pool and a new wooden hot tub we set down the hill from the sauna.
The sauna’s location against an existing retaining wall capitalizes on a prime vantage of the Hudson River, and also acts as a destination on the ninety-acre property. After having already come across the historical dairy barns and greenhouses, grain silos and the grand estate house, the sauna appears as an architectural folly of contemporary sensibility. Functionally, the sauna is based closely on traditional Finnish saunas, with a true wood burning stove and earthen roof.
Designed as a rectangular volume with a distinct material palette, consisting of an ipe rain screen, unlacquered bronze overhang and window casings, and atop the green roof, corten steel enclosures cover the chimneys. Inside, cedar slats make up the seating and removable floor deck, while tongue and groove planks cover the walls and ceiling. Robe hooks and door pulls are made of carved ebony. Large soapstone slabs cover the floors in the changing room and serve as heat shields around the electric and wood-burning stoves. Firewood is stored in Ipe boxes under the seats and beside the stoves. The horizontal windows frame views of the Hudson River and the Catskills in the distance. At night, the sauna and changing room are illuminated by light recesses in the walls and beneath the bench seating. An outdoor shower projects from the façade over the equipment room door, raining over repurposed bluestone slabs at the base of the sunken entry area, harvested from the estate grounds.
2013 AIA Annual Design Review Winner
2013 Architizer A+ Award, Special Mention
Structural Engineer: Murray Engineering (http://www.murray-engineering.com)
Photographer: Seong Kwon (http://www.seongkwon.com)