Koto’s first off grid eco-sauna clings to Irish headlands

Koto’s first off grid eco-sauna clings to Irish headlands

Design and architecture studio Koto has launched its first ‘off grid cabin sauna’. Löyly, a naturally-powered wood-fired sauna, was a year in the works, and sparks a new direction for the studio; which hopes to produce a long line of off grid structures, and eventually homes.

Established in July 2018, Koto was formed by Jonathan Little (previously of Snøhetta), and Zoe Little, on a mission to disseminate their love of the great outdoors through highly crafted cabins and small-scale bespoke architectural commissions. After spending a decade living in Oslo, the pair were keen to acknowledge the enduring aesthetic of Scandinavian design, and the key part it has to play in the Nordic lifestyle. The duo – who are now based in North Devon, UK – recently opened a second office in Belfast, headed up by their third founding partner, architect Theo Dales.

Koto Sauna

In line with its Nordic sensibility, Koto has a keen ‘fabric-first’ approach to energy efficiency, with the aim of providing long term low-energy performance, emphasising low-toxicity, natural and sustainable materials, as demonstrated by the Löyly sauna.

Seen here pictured in the rugged reaches of Donegal, Ireland, at boutique bed and breakfast and ‘headland hideaway’ Breac House, Löyly not only uses wood as a primary material, but also employs wood-based products throughout the construction process. ‘These materials sequester carbon within the fabric of the building such that we can deliver carbon negative construction,’ Zoe explains.

Koto picks its manufacturing partners to match. ‘We strongly believe that the construction industry needs to pay careful attention,’ she continues. ‘Not just to reducing the energy consumption of new buildings but also, to the short term carbon impact that using carbon intensive materials in the construction of new stock can have.’

Its an innovative model that is easier on the environment, the eye, and – the designers hope – the mind. Their form of therapeutic architecture revolves around the Nordic concept of Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv), an expression that translates to ‘open-air living’. Norwegian poet Ibsen described the term as the value of spending time in the remote outdoors for spiritual and mental wellbeing. The thinking? After a day digesting the extreme Donegalian landscape, fold yourself inside the hygge-heavy cabin to warm through. §

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