In Seattle, goCstudio’s Floating Sauna

People / Places / Products / July 5, 2016

A second-place award in a design competition has led to a one-of-a-kind lake vessel: the wa_sauna by Seattle architects at goCstudio.

“It stems from a competition in 2012 for reusing the pontoons from the 520 bridge that crossed between Mercer Island and Seattle,” says Jon Gentry, co-founder of the firm and alumnus of Olson Kundig. “We started conceptualizing and doing renderings for a floating sauna – it was to be its own vessel, and to move around the lakes.”

It was not initially destined to be built – but people began to share images of it, and it took on a life of its own. “We got serious about raising money for it, and looked at it as a way to get our work out there – to show our risk-taking attitude and attract like-minded people,” he says.

A Kickstarter campaign ensued – earning $43,000 from 450 pledges. And construction began in earnest – at Hilliard’s Brewery, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. “They donated a corner of the warehouse,” he says. “We built it in five or six weeks, on nights and weekends.”

The platform is 12 by 20 feet and surrounds a sauna box that’s ┬áseven by seven feet, offset on the platform. There’s a seven foot deck space on the front – a hangout space – and a walking space on back with a ladder to the top for diving. “You can plunge into the lake from the rooftop,” he says. “We’ve been doing a max of eight people on board- with six in the sauna.”

The frame is prefabricated aluminum, and holds 28 55-gallon drums underneath. “They came from a company called Rolling Barge,” he says. “There’s marine-grade plywood on top – we clad the box with plywood and stained it ebony. The interior is spruce planks, and there’s a wood-fired stove inside.”

It draws its share of attention on Lake Union in the middle of Seattle, where kayakers tie up and hop aboard. But it’s an attention-getter elsewhere too. “It’s a weird concept but it has led directly to a couple of projects,” he says. “People otherwise wouldn’t know we existed.”

That includes AIA National, which has just named it a 2016 Small Projects award-winner.

For more on goCstudio, go here.

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Michael Welton

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