Serlachius Museums’ Art Sauna has been nominated for the 2022 Finlandia Prize for Architecture. Finnish film director Klaus Härö will select the Finlandia winner on 3 October.

The Art Sauna, built next to Serlachius Museum Gösta, integrates Finnish sauna culture into an experience of art, nature and architecture. The award-winning trio of architects Héctor Mendoza, Mara Partida and Boris Bežan designed the Art Sauna.

According to the Finlandia Prize for Architecture presentation, the concrete-structure sauna does not defy Finnish sauna architecture. Instead, the Art Sauna transports visitors to a completely unexpected sauna world.

“The end result is an experiential sauna path, drawing on the cultural backgrounds of its creators, along which a substantial amount of art has been placed. The path ends in the steam room via an outdoor space. The Art Sauna is unmistakably related to a new sauna culture, where instead of traditional relaxation and washing, people seek experiences and a sense of social togetherness.”

In addition to the Art Sauna, the renovation of the University of Jyväskylä Library and the Jätkäsaari School in Helsinki are competing for the Finlandia Prize.

A journey into architecture, art and nature

The sauna is behind the museum on a slope descending to the shore of the lake. It blends into the landscape, rising unassumingly above the terrain. A green roof further merges the building into its setting.

The interior spaces of the sauna are characterised by a dialogue of art, landscape and architecture. Stone and wood surfaces alternate rhythmically, and the curved lines of the lobby’s ceiling soften the straight lines of the stone finish. The entrance to the sauna and the layout of the rooms lead the sauna visitor on a journey into the embrace of light, nature and art. At the journey’s end awaits a round steam room, which can be reached via a cooling yard.

Photo by Sampo Linkoneva

Héctor Mendoza, Mara Partida and Boris Bežan say that to have an opportunity to design a Finnish sauna has been a challenge and a big responsibility. Their way of working seeks an adequate balance between experimentation and common sense.

“Sauna tradition has a connection with Finnish culture and its way of living. We needed to understand it so our architecture could respond to that. With that in mind and the admiration we feel towards Finland, we feel quite fortunate to take on that challenge”, they say.

The architects consider the Serlachius Museums to be more than just a museum. There, the art experience extends beyond the walls of the museum.

“The Gösta Museum is part of an emotional journey that starts and continues with different elements of the context. The new Art Sauna is presented as part of that journey. It will become ‘more than a sauna room’, integrating nature and art in a more intimate and proximate scale”.

Finnish contemporary art and international design

In addition to Finnish contemporary art, the sauna also features utility items. Satu Rautiainen’s large-scale commissioned work Birdbath (2022) decorates the wall of the lobby. The theme of the work is also repeated in sauna textiles. Tuula Lehtinen’s mosaic work Embrace (2022) decorates a semi-circular outdoor shower, which is in use all year round. Other artists include Jussi Goman, Anne Koskinen, Laura Könönen, Anni Rapinoja and Noora Schroderus.

The interior of the sauna features furniture from top international designers such as Òscar Tusquets, Patricia Urquiola, Jasper Morrison and Faye Toogood. Alvar Aalto, Eero Aarnio, Lisa Johansson-Pape and Antrei Hartikainen are among the Finnish designers represented in the sauna.

Art Sauna complements Serlachius’ range of services

The Art Sauna provides a unique addition to Serlachius’ own service offering and to Finnish sauna culture as a whole. The Finnish sauna culture has become an internationally important tourism product in recent years. Groups can rent the sauna for recreational, meeting and festive use. Individual sauna lovers can also enjoy its steam heat on pre-arranged public days. Read more about Serlachius Art Sauna.

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