A minimalist sauna design, idyllically located at the water’s edge on an island in the Stockholm Archipelago, is the latest addition to a complex that will eventually include a home, wellness areas and a guest house. Designed by the Italian-born, Sweden-based architect Matteo Foresti for a private client, the sauna sits between two rocky hills, a few metres up from the water, on a small, flat area covered in soil and low planting.

‘My main concern was to find the optimal place for the sauna and preserve the beauty of this pristine site,’ says Foresti. ‘On the one hand, we wanted to find a place close to the water, with a beautiful view and the perfect sunlight (facing the sunset), and on the other hand, we really wanted to minimise the impact of a building in the landscape.’ The sauna’s light timber construction, with a heat-treated pine frame and exterior skin and aspen wood interiors, was placed lightly on the ground, avoiding expensive and invasive foundations on the rocky landscape.

timber sauna interior
The all-wood interior of the sauna

The building is reasonably small – just 15 sq m – as is often the tradition in its typology. Foresti allowed the simple structure of the typical Nordic sauna to guide his design, keeping this piece of architecture compact and functional. Minimalist interiors and a large glazed façade overlooking the water focus the eye on the natural context and the sauna experience. ‘Our main goal was to find the right proportions, the right scale and material rather than “invent” something new,’ says the architect. ‘A humble, small and simple volume to enjoy a sauna and the beautiful view.’

The small scale of the scheme was a particularly attractive challenge for Foresti, who had worked on private saunas before and relished the chance to work on the more ‘human’ dimensions such a project offered. He also appreciated the speed and immediacy of the construction (‘It gives us the opportunity to test new solutions and ideas,’ he says), while the natural beauty of the environment was another key draw in this commission. ‘[It is] a privilege that also entails a responsibility to cohabit and respect the surroundings,’ he adds. §

Set on the rocky outcrop the minimalist sauna design is orientated towards the sea