Going to the sauna and then cooling off in the chill nordic air or in the icy waters of the Baltic is a tradition deeply ingrained in Finnish culture. In the five days I was in Helsinki, I spent more time perspiring in the sauna than I ever had in my life. One of the saunas I visited during my brief stay was Löyly Helsinki, which opened its doors this past May. While most communal saunas in Finland are unassuming cabins next to the water, Löyly Helsinki is an impressive wooden structure with sleek steam rooms, a hip indoor bar and wooden decks overlooking the Baltic.
Whether you are a local or a tourist, Löyly is a sauna unlike any you’ve ever seen.
Löyly is the Finnish word for the steam that rises from the sauna stove. Like the word it's named after which lacks a direct translation in English and many other languages, the sauna experience, which is quintessential to the Finnish people, hadn’t been made accessible and desirable to visitors of the Baltic city until now. Engraved on one of the wood panels of Löyly’s exterior are the names of the men who decided it was their duty to share this experience with the world: Jasper and Antero. The luxurious communal sauna is the passion project of Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen, best known this side of the pond for portraying a Viking king on History Channel’s hit show Vikings. Pääkkönen partnered with restauranteur and Green League member of parliament Antero Vartia to build a green twist to a centuries-old tradition.
From the location of the sauna to the architects chosen for its design, Pääkkönen and Vartia made choices with Helsinki's environment and future in mind. Löyly Helsinki is located in the up and coming Hernesaari neighborhood - an industrial area whose development will only be expedited by the sauna’s success.
Behind the sauna’s futuristic design are Ville Hara and Anu Puustinen of Avanto Architects. The duo has a track record of applying a striking contemporary design to traditional communal spaces, as was the case with their renowned 2010 project - the Chapel of St. Lawrence in Vantaa, Finland. Already garnering international praise, their design of the Löyly sauna is featured in the Baltic Pavilion of this year’s ongoing Architecture Biennial in Venice.
To continue the tradition of communal bathing at Löyly, Hara and Puustinen brought to life a vision that is both innovative and sustainable. Their design of the Löyly sauna relies heavily on the use of recycled wood panels from a local startup, Nextimber, which uses plywood industry waste to manufacture its wood boards and panels. The wood from Nextimber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which makes Löyly the first ever FSC-certified project in Finland. The recycled wooden slats of the Löyly’s exterior will grey with time, an erosion that is welcomed by the visionaries behind Löyly as it will allow the structure to fit in with its rocky surroundings.
Beyond the sauna’s infrastructure, Löyly’s commitment to sustainability continues.
Löyly uses eco-certified electricity and low emission wood stoves in its steam rooms. The seaside attraction also hosts a bar and an environmentally conscious restaurant, in addition to its luxurious steam rooms. The restaurant’s menu is carefully crafted with local fare such as reindeer from Northern Finland and responsibly fished salmon from the Baltic.
From the recycled wood on the decks to the salmon on the menu, Löyly Helsinki is a project built in complete harmony with its environment. This summer, it’ll attract tourists and novices, as well as locals and hardcore bathers.
Marianne Abbott is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based in NYC. She is a recent graduate of Brown University where she concentrated in Modern Culture and Media. Born and raised in Guatemala City, Marianne has more than one country to call her home.
A firm believer that no place reveals its true self in three days or on a tour bus, Marianne is currently living and exploring in Berlin.