The word “sauna” means “room of wood” in Finnish. The use of wood is both a tradition and practical consideration in constructing a sauna. Firstly, they are good heat insulators; if you touch a wooden surface, the heat doesn’t sting as severely as a stone wall, for example.
Wood also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which make them more hygienic and easier to maintain. Other materials would run the risk of mould. Furthermore, the heat and moisture in a sauna would damage plaster or drywall, which lack the resilience and durability of wood.
Softwoods such as spruce and hemlock are frequently used, although oak, alder and aspen are also possible options.
Viba’s Sauna in Latvia exercises these principles. The architects, Spot, however conceptualised the building such that it reflects the core functionality of sauna, namely, the contrast between hot and cold, accommodating all four classical elements: water (pool), fire (sauna), air (skylight) and earth (lounge).
For example, one can enjoy an unobstructed view through the lounge room’s window while resting in the warm, wooden sauna room. The room also features cold glass and stone elements which distance one from the sauna room creating a completely different feeling.
Architects: Spot/ Images: Filips Smits