It seems to have always belonged to the mountainous morphology on which it rests. It is at one with the rock formation, giving the impression that it was created by geological phenomena in ages past. In reality, the Sauna Grotto, perched on the cliffs of an island overlooking Lake Ontario, in Canada’s Georgian Bay, is a jewel of cutting-edge engineering.
It was no easy task for the Partisan design studio and its team to insert an artificial cave in such a powerful natural environment and to blend the sacredness of the place with the modern technology that the project required. Firstly, the entire site was digitally scanned in order to create a number of three-dimensional models on different scales, an approach that led to an innovative construction process.
The next step was to choose the most suitable materials in terms of characteristics and properties. Here cedar wood – which is robust, fragrant and mould-resistant – is used for the exterior, producing a special blackened camouflaged effect.
But it is the interior that is most striking, recreating a highly evocative ancestral cave design thanks to the timber, which is only curved in appearance: this optical illusion is made possible by the invention of a plank assembly system – specifically selected from the driest planks –, placed side by side in parallel to resemble slightly buckled panels. A design that is not solely aesthetic, but also functional, enabling good heat distribution in the space and greater efficiency.
You do not however see the airtight internal structure, which, together with the energy efficient aluminium layer by MCM Inc, creates a convective air chamber, allowing the wood to expand or contract without damage. Two high-performance stoves supported by ventilation and air ducts allow the structure to periodically breathe, preventing mildew and rotting. The rest of the internal systems are based on air flow control, using isolation – aided by the triple glazing of the openings – not only to protect the components from rapid heating or cooling, but also to make the sauna energy-efficient.
Sauna Grotto offers a journey into another dimension, a suspended place, a wellness retreat where you can enjoy, according to National Geographic, one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
Project Management: PARTISANS
Engineering: MOSES Inc
Lighting Consulting: G2J Design Inc
Partisans Team: Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash, Jonathan Friedman, Shamir Panchal, Ivan Vasyliv, Betty Vuong, Nathan Bishop
Contractor: Jordan Construction, Chantler Barging
Main suppliers: MCM Inc, AGNORA, Energy Misers, Building Science Inc
Size: 800 sqft
Photo credits: Jonathan Friedman