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Students planned a rooftop sauna in the centre of London

A Finnish sauna has opened London, shimmering on evening light on the banks of the River Thames. The sauna is the result of Aalto's and Southbank Centre's co-operation.
Photo: Valentina Casalini.

The sauna, located on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof terrace in Southbank, London, is an interesting sample of Finnish design skills, combining architecture and art. The Finnish Rooftop Sauna is a result of co-operation by Aalto University (Aalto) and Southbank Centre, and it is designed and implemented in collaboration with Aalto MA students Pedro Pablo Garcia Alcazar, Markus Holste, Monica Romagnoli and Miki Sordi, and Finnish sculptor Jaakko Pernu. The sauna is open until the 30th of December.

"It is a tremendous honour for Aalto University and Finland to get an invitation to design and implement a project like this on such a visible and risky location in the middle of London. It was even more challenging to design a sauna, that is often seen as a synonym for Finnishness. The sauna has a huge amount of symbolism and different expectations. It is particularly gratifying that our students have, for the centennial of our independence, interpreted the subject with empathy and courage to re-interpret the traditions," says Professor Pentti Kareoja from Aalto University.

The architecture of the sauna is based on a wooden frame structure which is repeated, thus creating a longitudinally-oriented building suitable for the location. The structure is covered with translucent polycarbonate plates that are illuminated. The idea was to create a bright landmark for London's winter nights. The interior functions proceed from both ends following the sauna rituals, ending in a common sauna in the middle of the building. There users can face each other, sculptor Pernu's work and views over the River Thames.

The Finnish rooftop sauna is part of a Nordic Matters exhibition in Southbank Centre. The exhibition raises awareness of the Nordic countries, that have long been ranked as the most livable societies and recognised for being at the forefront of social change. Southbank Centre presents what’s happening in Nordic art and culture. Nordic Matters exhibition has chosen interesting topics and phenomena from the Nordic countries to explore for over a year. 

Southbank Centre is a world-famous, multi-venue arts centre in London, with a year-round festivals programme. Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, founded with the Festival of Britain in 1951. The festival programme encompasses art, theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, literature and debate. It reaches 6.25 million people a year, and encompasses over 5,000 events featuring world-class artists from across the globe. 

More information: 

Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Professor Pentti Kareoja
tel. +358 40 768 0659, [email protected]

Product and Spatial Design MA Markus Holste
tel. +358 41 461 8984, [email protected]i

Manager, Corporate Relations Pirita Posti
tel. +358 50 364 6381, [email protected]

Instagram: finnish_rooftop_sauna
A Sauna Experience (finnishnotfinland.com)
Southbank Centre (southbankcentre.co.uk)

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