NOW Studio: The New Academy

Aalto-Carleton Joint Studies Program for Architecture and Urbanism



Jan '14 - Feb '14

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    Kulttuurisauna / Sauna Culture

    By Bench
    Jan 29, '14 6:24 AM EST

    Well that didn't take too long for me to miss a blog entry. Fret not though - I intend to make up for it with a double-post this week. Round #1:

    As new residents of Finland we have been introduced to the culture of attending sauna (pronounced "sow-na"). These are not the typical ones you would find in North American public swimming pools, but instead tend to have a much more intense heat, hold the moisture with profound density (especially around the head), are attended much more frequently as well as for longer periods of time, and involve significantly more nudity than what little sauna's we would attend back home.


    It is estimated that there are roughly 2,000,000 sauna's in Finland, compared with 5,000,000 people - or essentially one per family. They are found literally everywhere: private homes, apartment complexes, physical activity complexes, workplaces, schools. Even the Aalto Architecture School has it's own sauna on the first floor!

    As we have become more accustomed to attending sauna, we discover more nuances everytime we go; sauna's are considered not a luxury, but in fact a necessity here. Fortunately, the Kulttuurisauna designed by NOW Studio is our class's general meeting spot - being only one of four public sauna's in the city, I have had the opportunity of attending open hours multiple times now, where I am able to thoughtlessly put my mind at ease. The sauna is, put simply, a place to be. Not a room for prayer or even meditation, but simply a space to exist within.

    But what does this have to do with architecture?

    As I try to place myself in the oeuvre of critical regionalism and how I can connect my own parametric interests to it, I've started to consider the fact that a small sauna proposal within Helsinki could be an ideal test vehicle to start exploring the subject deeper. I have begun a series of readings that will start with an emphasis on distinctly Nordic approaches to thinking about space, materiality, technique and design. I plan to expand this to find connections between these and the benefits of attending sauna from the standpoint of the act of being: physical, mental and spiritual.

    The current reading list includes:

    Snøhetta Works (Snøhetta)

    Pietilä (Norri + Connah)

    Raili & Reima Pietilä (Angel Fernandez Alba)

    Wood Works (Puusta Tehty)

    Zumthor: Spirit of Wood Nature Architecture Award (Hornborg + Toivanen)

    Yes Is More (Bjarke Ingels)

    Cool Architecture: Designing for Cold Climates (Sarah Noal)

    International Handbook of Finnish Sauna (Konya + Burger)

    In Detail: Building Simply (Christian Schittich)

    I hope to establish a question in the next week and find a site in the city following that. In the meantime I have continued to explore the city and surrounding area in search of spaces that could connect to these themes. (Its nice to have a side-project of trying to push my photography skills.)

    "I dwell upon the manner in which architects in this Scandinavian land have been able to brilliantly transform nature into architecture." - Angel Fernandez Alba




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About this Blog

An on-going documentation of the work happening in Carleton University's semester-long work for the Directed Studio Abroad to Helsinki, Finland in the joint studies program with Aalto University. January-April 2014.

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