The Hernesaari district in Helsinki is being developed into a residential area, but the City of Helsinki wanted to enliven the shoreline area before actual construction began. The idea was to offer city dwellers and cruise ship passengers a genuine Finnish sauna experience. Both the site and the contractor were changed twice. In the end, actor Jasper Pääkkönen and MP Antero Vartia joined the project, and construction was started in spring 2015.
Although Löyly is within walking distance from the city centre, the site offers a stunning view over the open sea. As the shore area is part of the Helsinki Park, it was important not to disturb the green zone environment with a conspicuous building. Therefore, the building was designed to be as narrow as possible. The building mass is low to ensure that the sea view from the residential area to be built behind the sauna remains unobstructed. Löyly is not a traditional building. It is more of an artificial terrain formation, a part of the landscape. When the wooden building turns grey with time, it will resemble a rock on the shoreline.
The architectural idea is simple: The hot sauna spaces are contained in a black rectangular box covered by a free-form wooden “cloak”. The sculptural structure is not just a decoration. It serves several functions. The lamella is like a venetian blind that offers visual privacy but does not block the sea view from the inside. The cloak provides protection against the sun and reduces cooling needs. The steps on the cloak structure take you up to a roof terrace and a lookout platform, or down to the sea for a swim. Löyly also serves as a large outdoor auditorium where people will be able to watch regattas once the sea sports centre is completed. The cloak consists of about four thousand wooden components, computer-modelled and cut to size at the workshop of Puupalvelu Jari Rajala. The large wooden terrace is stepped down towards the shore to maximise the view to the sea. It extends far into the water, allowing visitors to listen to the sound of the waves under their feet. The exterior wooden structures, which are made of heat-treated pine glulam with no surface treatment, will turn grey with time.
The building is divided into two parts: public saunas and a restaurant. The various functional areas are grouped into spaces within spaces, with open spaces separating closed ones. When moving from one space group to another, interesting views open up for the visitors. All three saunas are wood-fired: one has a continuously heated stove, one a single-heat stove, and one is the only traditional smoke sauna in Helsinki. In the space between the saunas, there is a lounge area with a cold-water pool and a fireplace den for relaxation. It is also possible to swim in the sea in the winter.
To counterbalance the heaviness of the black concrete, the wooden surfaces in the saunas are covered with Nextimber panels. The panels, which are a Finnish innovation, are made of plywood industry residues (birch core wood) that normally ends up being incinerated as energy waste. The residue is glued, pressed and heat-treated until its properties change. In this way, waste is recycled into a material with a beautiful, lively surface. The interiors of the restaurant, terraces, sauna bar and fireplace den interiors were designed by Joanna Laajisto Creative Studio.
The building is the first Finnish and the second Scandinavian building to be awarded FSC Certification, which means that all the timber used in the building comes from sustainably managed forests.
Project in brief
- Location | Hernesaarenranta 4, Helsinki
- Purpose | Public sauna and restaurant
- Constructor/Client | Antero Vartia and Jasper Pääkkönen, Kidvekkeli Oy
- Floor area | 656 m2
- Total area | 1 070 m2
- Volume | 3 466 m3
- Architectural Design | Avanto Architects Ltd
- Structural design | Ramboll Finland Oy
- LVIA-suunnittelu | Optiplan Oy
- Electrical design | Optiplan Oy
- Interior design | Joanna Laajisto Creative Studio
- Pääurakoitsija | Rakennustoimisto Jussit Oy
- Wood component supplier | Puupalvelu Jari Rajala Oy (wood furniture contractor) ja Nextimber (wood materials)
- Photographs | Kuvatoimisto Kuvio Oy
- Text | Avanto Architects Ltd