Löyly, Helsinki: the sauna as a way of life
The sauna plays a key role in Finnish culture. It is not just a customary family ritual and an essential part of any celebration; it’s a way of life and a source of national pride. Avanto Architects’ Löyly, a restaurant and public sauna complex in Helsinki covering 1,071 sqm, is located near the cruise ship terminal serving as a tourist attraction and a leisure complex for Finns themselves.
They say that Finland has enough saunas to fit the entire 5.4 million population simultaneously. It may well be true; there are between 2 and 3 million saunas in the country. While public saunas were commonplace in the past, they have now all but disappeared as almost every home, residential complex and hotel has its own sauna. The architects wanted to revive the tradition and provide the city’s visitors with a real Finnish sauna.
The word Löyly has a very specific translation in Finnish – it is the steam that rises from the stove of a sauna when water is thrown on it, or simply the heat of the sauna. The sauna is located in the Hernesaari former industrial area on the seafront, less than 2 km from the city centre. The building was conceived by the Helsinki City Administration, which also plans to eventually develop the whole waterside park. The building itself is low and elongated, so as not to block the sea view from potential residential properties or reduce the size of the park. The multi-faceted building fits in with the park better than a conventional building and its shape echoes that of the coastline. The façade’s wood cladding will darken with time, making it more rock-like and fitting in better with its surroundings.
The Löyly complex is formed of a simple rectangle shrouded in a wooden frame. The outer structure, made of heat-treated pine slats and clad with Equitone Tectiva façade material, makes the building visually striking and gives visitors a sense of privacy. The slats serve as horizontal shutters, providing a sea view and protection from prying eyes and direct sunlight. Panoramic windows enclose the sauna and general relaxation area and are sheltered by the external wooden façade. In winter, between sessions in the sauna, visitors can plunge into the ice-hole below.
The graded slats of the exterior act as a staircase to the roof for wonderful views of the city centre and the Gulf of Finland. A distinctive modern amphitheatre on the roof will be used for various events, but for now serves as an additional place to unwind. The large wooden terrace partially hangs over the sea so that the lapping waves can be heard below.
The interior is divided in two: the spa and sauna area and the restaurant area. Joanna Laajisto Creative Studio was tasked with developing the interior of the sauna and restaurant. Their aim was to create a space to complement the architectural style of the building. Black concrete, Scandinavian birch, carbon steel and wool fabrics are the main materials use for finishing this minimalist complex. Bathroom finishes and sanitary ceramics are provided by Duravit, Geberit, and IDO, while Oras supplies the taps.
The eye-catching walls, benches, table tops and bar counter are not made of solid wood, but glued waste wood products from Finnish green material specialists Nextimber. The restaurant features upholstered Manu 113 chairs from Italian maker Torre and designer pendant lamps. Avanto Architects’s environmental considerations did not stop at reused wood offcuts. Water and wind energy is used to light the complex, the saunas are heated with responsibly sourced wood, and the restaurant serves responsibly caught fish and, where possible, organic produce.
All images © kuvio.com, courtesy of avan.to
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