When we were asked to design a sauna for Tampere, the international ‘sauna capital of the world,’ we knew that it would be a momentous and special undertaking. Tullin Sauna, or customs sauna as it is translated, is a public sauna that functions as a related extension to Dream Hotel, also designed by Studio Puisto Architects, right across the street.
Situated in the heart of the former industrial red brick neighborhood, Tullin Sauna is a hidden place of refuge interwoven into the active urban fabric of the city center. Its name is attributed to the location’s past as a customs checkpoint for the municipality and aims to comparably act as a central gathering space for residents and visitors alike.
Tullin Sauna builds upon the notion of a korttelisauna, or neighborhood sauna, which refers to the integral role of the sauna in the late nineteenth century. During that time, space was limited in cities, and residential homes were often too modest in size to be able to house personal washrooms. To fulfill the basic human need for hygiene, korttelisaunas were built, quickly turning into communal living rooms where the public could come together not only to bathe, but also to share thoughts and ideas.
As a modern kortellisauna, Tullin Sauna similarly serves as a communal living room for both Dream Hotel and the larger district in the city. Along with the sauna itself, there is a bistro and co-working space that all together harmoniously foster a dynamic environment that relaxes and stimulates meaningful exchange.
A few decades ago, the existing building for Tullin Sauna acted as a warehouse for the nearby railway station. To celebrate its rich history and the industrial architecture that cultivated it, the overall design is anchored on remaining down to earth and honest to its past while adding a hint of modern charm. Similarly, saunas themselves are conventionally seen as pure, honest spaces as well, and Tullin Sauna was to be no exception to this.
One of the most prominent materials used throughout is natural, warm Finnish pine to juxtapose the cooler, rougher concrete textures already in place. The resulting architecture embodies a sense of nostalgia, carrying out a lively, complementary dialogue between the two. Other well-thought-out details, such as re-purposing concrete chamber rings into a shower area through stacking, also reiterate the concept and ideology behind the design process.
There are two traditional wood-burning Finnish saunas, each with contrasting atmospheres. One is darker and earthier, bearing resemblance to a savusauna, or smoke sauna, while the other is lighter and airier comparable to those typically seen at summer cottages. Both log saunas are constructed by local craftsman who all share a personal, deep-rooted connection to saunas and how they work, making sure that the two experiences were also indeed authentic.
When it comes to the overall user experience, the guiding idea was to also bring this honest, ritualistic sauna environment outside the actual sauna itself – both figuratively and literally. One of the log saunas physically cuts into the reception and bistro architecture with a small, tinted window, offering a symbolic peak into what is to come. Furthermore, to warm the interior and close off the space from the otherwise chaotic city center, the exterior windows were treated to be soft and milky in appearance, suggesting that they have been steamed from a sauna as well. The resulting ambiance is a calm, peaceful one that creates a resounding appetite for sauna from the moment one steps inside.
In addition, conventional sauna items, such as the metal saunaämpäri, or sauna bucket, are immediately visible upon entering and given to each visitor prior to entering the sauna. These buckets not only house the essentials for sauna, such as towels, etc., but also assist in defining the individual character and brand of Tullin Sauna. This is continued all the way into the bistro menu, which differentiates itself by only offering local delicacies and ingredients.
Above all, the resounding commitment towards maintaining the integrity of the sauna experience echoes throughout Tullin Sauna, ultimately establishing a reliable, truthful, and welcoming living room that hosts the local community and beyond – a result we feel is perfect for the sauna capital of the world!