Aiming to promote individual and social wellbeing through the revival of bathing culture along the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia, Sydney-based art and architecture collective Studio Rain has built a sauna installation, dubbed ‘Atmosphere: A Revival’. As a temporary re-activation of what was an iconic Melburnian swimming destination from the 1920s-1960s, the project inspires ways in which the Yarra River can be better experienced.
The sauna takes its inspiration from Scandinavian and Japanese bathing rituals, where public bathhouses offer members of the community a space to focus on the body at a collective level. As populations rise and public spaces continue to shrink, levels of anxiety and loneliness are increasing. The work aims to address these urban symptoms through engaging visitors in an intimate public ritual. Through a heightening of sensory awareness, visitors are invited to explore deeper connections to self, to others, and to nature.
The design philosophy is centered on a blurring of the boundaries between personal and public space. The structure is designed to encourage visitors to explore the threshold between intimate social contact and inner stillness. Traditional materials are combined with more experimental ones so as to play with levels of transparency and obscurity. Such materials allow the natural environment to have a presence in the space, whilst maintaining an intimate and sacred atmosphere.
Designed to be completely off-grid, the sauna is a lightweight, prefabricated structure that has a sensitive footprint on the site and the environment. The structure is made from reclaimed timber, with offcuts from the construction process being reused to supply the heat. The flat-packed design ensures that the sauna panels are able to be dismantled to allow for future reuse.
As the Yarra River is currently not in a swimmable state, Studio Rain built a ‘bucket shower’ on a refurbished diving board on the river bank where guests were able to cool off by dousing themselves theatrically with cold water. The design of the structure’s slanted, extended roof allowed fresh rainwater to be captured into a barrel positioned underneath, which was then pumped into the bucket shower system.