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Architects: Borhaven Arkitekter , ACT!
Year: 2021
Area: 90 m2
Location: Langkaia, 0150 Oslo, Norge

ACT Studio & Borhaven Arkitekter have completed a floating sauna set in the middle of the Oslo harbor. It faces the famous Oslo opera house and the central business district Barcode on the other side of the basin and is reached from the quay that runs along the Akershus fortress. It consists of two saunas and two towers with changing rooms, arranged in a pinwheel layout in order to give the saunas and the outdoor areas the desired orientation towards the city and the fjord.

The sauna «Bademaschinen», Norwegian for the Bathing Machine, is named after the first public sea bath that appeared in Oslo (then called Kristiana) in 1820, which was a raft with facilities for changing and bathing. The name suggested the modernity of the concept in its time, and it soon became a popular service catering to the health of the public. It was followed by numerous similar establishments, that flourished well into the 20th century when the increasing pollution of the Oslo fjord made the health aspect of bathing in the sea dubious. Today the fjord is cleaner than it has been in the last 150 years, and Oslo has lately experienced a surge of saunas and sea baths.

The sauna draws inspiration from multiple historical sources, most notably the sea baths of the 19th century which often had the imaginative and historicizing architecture that was popular in that period. The castle-like layout and the color scheme of red and yellow is a nod to the proximity to the Akershus fortress, whereas other elements pay homage to the canon of postmodernist architecture. 

The primary design driving factor was however the reuse of teak window frames from a 1960s nursing home outside of Oslo, that was undergoing full rehabilitation and conversion into housing. The measurements of the available windows then dictated the rest of the design, which in fact consists of little more than the structural frame in which the windows are set. As such the architectural components were chosen and procured beforehand, and the design followed as an associative process. The sauna was built partially by volunteers, and the process from ideation to completion was only eight months.

Collaborators: ACT! AS, Borhaven Arkitekter AS and Fjord Ingeniører AS

Photos by Rebecca Zeller