A Floating Sauna in Norway

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All photos courtesy Becky Zeller

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Bademaschinen, or the "bathing machine,"  is a tower of saunas floating upon the Oslo harbor in Norway. It overlooks the famous Oslo opera house, Munch museum and the central business district Barcode.

The combined Norwegian architecture expertise of ACT! Studio and Borhaven Arkitekter resulted in a masterpiece perfect for relaxing the mind, body and spirit. The structure consists of two saunas and two towers that contain changing rooms, resembling that of a pinwheel layout. One of the towers functions as a diving platform, whereas the other is connected to Lankaia pier via an upper-level platform. The design was informed by Oslo's first public sea bath, timber-framed northern European buildings and postmodern architecture.

"We just had a lot of fun with references and associations, and we thought this playfulness worked well with the program," says Borhaven Arkitekter, founding principal partner of Borhaven Arkitekter.

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The color scheme of red, yellow and shades of brown, combined with the castle-like design, is a nod to the sauna's proximity to the Akershus fortress. However, the primary factor driving the design was to recycle teak window frames from a 1960s nursing home located just outside of Oslo. The home was undergoing full rehabilitation and conversion into housing, so the old frames were available for someone to use elsewhere. The architects had to begin their process by measuring these window frames, which then dictated the rest of their design.

The interior walls of the saunas and changing rooms are adorned with birch plywood and the floors are coated with red vinyl. Some of the recycled frames were also filled with birch plywood, and brass from the windows was used as locker doorknobs in the changing rooms. The decking and roof of the sauna were made from hot-oil-treated spruce, all the spaces are insulated and the steps to the towers double as extra seats. It took a group of workers and volunteers a total of eight months to complete.

"We hoped that Bademaschinen, with its joyous aesthetics, would be received as a fresh addition to the urban environment of this part of Oslo and that the square would work like a social meeting place," says Armelle Breuil of ACT! Studio. "Our client, the association Oslo Badstuforening, which runs multiple saunas in Oslo, regularly uses it for different kinds of events, like DJ sessions and concerts."

This article first appeared in the March 2023 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.

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