Architects to heat up Burning Man revellers with Finnish style sauna

Helsinki firm JKMM Architects is building a sauna in the depths of the Nevada desert so that visitors of this year’s Burning Man can cleanse and relax. JKMM Architects teamed up with Finish creative collaborative Sauna on Fire to create the Steam of Life Pavilion for the festival, which kicks off in the Nevada desert this weekend.

While a hot sauna may be an unusual choice for such a warm climate, the duo intends the pavilion to offer revellers a place of respite that draws on the detoxing and rituals of the typical Finish sauna.

“We want the sauna pavilion to be a nurturing and relaxing space that provides shade and a sense of intimacy,” said JKMM architects. “All within the hustle and bustle of the sweltering expanses of the Playa.”

Built from dark wooden slats, the sauna will be arranged in a ring-shape around a shaded outdoor yard for users to cool down and relax.

“To take into account the high number of visitors to the sauna, the enfilade approach seemed impractical and we opted for a circulation route that goes around the building,” said JKMM Architects.

“This gives guests the opportunity to relive their bathing experience as part of what is intended to feel like a regenerative cycle.”

Visitors will enter into a low-lit passage that leads them into the steam room. The curved space will feature wooden benches along the walls and central stove. After heating up and sweating, users are encouraged to move around the ring and find the opening into the courtyard – which is designed in lieu of a cold plunge pool typically used after a sauna sweat session.

Dark plywood panels, in two different sizes, and three lengths of timber slats will be used to build the temporary structure. JKMM and Sauna on Fire devised the simple construction system so that the sauna can be easily packed up and transported to Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis where the festival takes place.

The Steam of Life Pavilion is one of a series of temporary installations that will be built in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for Burning Man 2019, which will take place from 25 August to 2 September. Others include a timber pavilion named Playascape that Atmos Studio founder Alex Haw has designed to bring people together.

Geordie Van Der Bosch has also designed this year’s main temple, which will be burned at the end of the event in the festival’s tradition. Burning Man was first founded on a San Francisco beach in 1986 by the late Larry Harvey, and has since grown into a temporary metropolis called Black Rock City that can host a population of 70,000.


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Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about many genres of music from Breakbeat and Drum & Bass to Techno and Electronica. A man that lives in a world of bass and beats, Ian is an obsessive collector of music and a true geek at heart, with many years spent in application design.