Löyly Helsinki: Avanto Architects
Posted on 02 August 2016
Many of us consider saunas to be a luxury addition to the home, a space widely associate with a spa retreat or a beautiful hotel but not one experienced on a regular basis. I have been fascinated by sauna design for many years, a uniform space that is instantly recognisable, clad entirely in natural wood with a classic stove acting as the focal point to the room. With such a symbolic style and limits to any changes that can be made, it is incredibly refreshing when a designer stands up and challenges these perceptions and familiarities of design into something fresh and striking.
In Finland, a country where the sauna forms part of the national identity, an architectural firm have done just that, challenged the visual perception of a sauna to create something incredibly unique and iconic. Public saunas have decreased dramatically over the years with more and more Finns opting to use private saunas in their own homes but designs such as Löyly in Helsinki are helping to buck the trend and return the sense of community spirit into urban areas once more.
Located in a formal industrial area on the Helsinki seashore, Löyly has been created as a social icon, a place to meet, interact and relax with friends. The building has been divided into two areas, one part containing two public saunas, traditional smoke and wood burning, whilst the second area contains a restaurant with multiple outdoor terraces, jutting out into the water with beautiful views looking out across the Gulf of Finland.
Whilst the designs of Löyly look complex, the context is actually very simple. The saunas are contained within a block building, similar to many regular designs but with glass windows allowing for breathtaking views of the sea. This block building has then been covered with an external skin of wooden slats, creating a striking architectural shape and introducing intriguing caverns of spaces, shading and protecting the internal structure without spoiling the view.
What I love about this design is, not only have the architects created a new landmark for Helsinki, they have created a public space that makes full use of its space. Angular shaded caverns to relax and retreat from the sun, a restaurant to socalise in, sauna to cleanse your body and mind and an external architectural skin that can be climbed to admire the views. This design is not just a sauna and sculptural building, it is a connection to life, a promoter of community spirit and a place to enjoy what life has to offer.
Interior design by Joanna Laajisto Creative Studio. Photography from kuvio.com.