Grotto Sauna (Freestanding Residential Sauna) by PARTISAN Projects
2014 - 2015, Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner
Inspiration came directly from the site, an island located in Georgian Bay, Canada. The unique and rugged landscape is a prehistoric geological record, carved by shifting plates and glacial erosion. We were also inspired by the notion of a Grotto, a secret internal world, internally carved by natural forces. Thus, we were inspired to create a piece of architecture that evolved out of its surroundings. Outside, the sauna is a mysterious object embedded in the landscape, while within awaits a sublime world of complexity, wonder and delight.
The craggy island, which sits in the midst of some of Canada’s most pristine wilderness, posed substantial logistical challenges that required inventive design and sustainability solutions. We enlisted everyone at the studio to pitch design ideas based on digital scans of the site, which allowed optimal orientation of the building with minimal excavation and maximized creative input. Prefabricating the sauna and delivering it to the island significantly reduced the potential time spent on site as well as construction impact on the environment.
Design Challenges
The team faced a great number of regulatory and logistical challenges in building the finely crafted structure at the shore of an inhospitable and remote wilderness island. The building must withstand ice flows from the lake in the winter while accommodating the extreme heat and humidity of the sauna inside. In addition, fabricating the panels took great technical skill. To achieve all this, the building was constructed as a pre-fab construction project and then delivered by truck and barge and then craned into place on the island.
Production Technology
Challenging the standards of current practices in the construction industry, we worked directly with a millwork and steel fabrication partner, MCM 2001 Inc. Together, we developed a new process of fabrication; developing prototypes and utilizing state of the art 3-D technology to scan, model and build the Grotto. The process led to a new-found understanding for the properties of materials.
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