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Steamy, steady and sanctuary -

The importance of crafting a shared sauna at Sunds Grustag

The Swedish notion of allemansrätten describes a public access right which permits most of the land to be freely roamed and utilized by residents and visitors. This access right is limited to the outdoors, and any built structure is predominantly private property. Scattered through the vast woodland of the Swedish landscape are endless amounts of cabins, bathhouses, saunas, sheds, and huts - destinations for some, but off-access for most. At Sunds Grustag, a stone quarry on Värmdö, I crafted a public sauna as a suggested destination to share for anyone interested. I wanted to question the idea of ownership and challenge the experience of spaces we share and meet in: who makes them, for whom, using what techniques and what materials. A suggested destination to examine the notion of feeling at home, what it can mean and where it can be experienced. Making a functional structure in this scale easily becomes read in an architectural context, but I emphasize that the sauna I built is very much part of a craft tradition. How I shape materiality and people’s experiences through a handle or a coffee cup, is transferred into another scale when the process of making remains very much the same through its intimacy and hands-on physicality. I built my sauna by coiling it like a giant planter pot using mostly material readily available in and around the quarry; clay, sand, stone, gravel, hay, manure and timber. 

A sauna is a warm welcome. Steamy, steady and sanctuary; it is a physical room altering the state of body and mind. It can be experienced in solitude or a social setting, with family, friends or with strangers. Not intended as a luxury, but as a necessity, the ritual aspects of the sauna begin as a bodily effort. You start a fire, and make sure to keep it alive during its first critical gasps for oxygen, before letting it grow slowly but surely through feeding it more wood. You gather water, make a birch vihta, prepare the post-sauna moment with a bottle opener and a cold drink. Get undressed, take a seat, throw scoops of water on the heated rocks, and absorb the moment when hot steam hits you in the face and wraps around your body. The Fins use the word löyly to explain the overall ecstasy of the sauna experience. It literally means to throw steam, but it also describes the privilege of a moment when you are able to rest your eyes and give in to the effects of the sauna before cold water shocks your heated body. You are left dazed, but not confused. Everything will be ok. 


The sauna was located at Sunds Grustag on Värmdö, available by bus/car/boat about 40 minutes from central Stockholm and open to visit and utilize for anyone interested.