The few drops of rain falling from Helsinki’s heaven couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered for the roof wetting of the appropriately named Löyly (sauna steam), the sauna on the shores of this Nordic city. Neither did it penetrate the roof of the steel/concrete/wooden construction aimed to blend into the Baltic coastline.
The ‘organic space ship’ (see New Sauna for Helsinki), is emerging bit by bit with the help of construction company Jussit Oy with Jukka Klang at the helm as Project Manager and Markku Mäkilä as Site Manager.
I spoke to the intrepid architects, Anu Puustinen and Ville Hara from Avanto Architects who are passionate about this building. They have to be. They’ve been involved in it from the very beginning, a process that started 5 years ago, has undergone 3 ownership changes as well as some site shifting and design manipulation.
“Antero Vartia (MP/actor/restaurateur) and Jasper Pääkönen (actor and passionate salmon protector) are the third set of clients we’ve been dealing with. It has taken some real sweat and struggle to get this off the ground and to this stage of the game.”
“What challenges have you had to face?”
“First and foremost the weather. It’s always a problem here in Finland and being so close to the sea poses even more obstacles. The framework has to be made out of steel and concrete to withstand storms and other adverse conditions like ice. When the sea freezes over it pushes and shoves everything in its way.”
“And the wood? Would it be affected?”
“Finland has a long history of building wooden structures next to the Baltic and hence, besides perhaps changing colour, it shouldn’t harm it. We’ve used Nextimber, wood glued and heat treated, then pressed to make it more dense, more like teak.”
“What kind of wood have you used?”
“On the outside pine, inside a kind of birch waste wood, like plywood, thin but creating a lovely veneer. It’s a really ecological way of using timber.”
“According to the operators, Royal Restaurants, end of May. And the construction company is giving its thumbs up to it, so hopefully. We’ll be proud when it’s finally done after so many years of planning and negotiating.”
The sauna will house electric, wooden and smoke saunas, a huge restaurant and terrace and a place to go for a dip in the Baltic. These will be open every day from 1 to 10 pm.
Royal Restaurants will manage the entire building and the menu will include everything Finnish and fishy (homage to Jasper) with the ubiquitous hamburger thrown in for good measure. It’s not a dining place, more a relaxation joint with partying reserved for Fridays and Saturdays.