Vibas's sauna

Axonometric view of the viba's sauna, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Viba’s sauna is the introductory object in the study of Four Square Grid composition. Considering its core functionality, the contrast between hot and cold is used to facilitate the intimate experience within the small space. The visual continuum that is formed by a conflux of multiple spaces after a heated sauna ritual explores the notion of Axis Mundi – the connection between Heaven and Earth or the higher and lower realms.

  • Commission – undisclosed.
  • Programme – sauna.
  • Location – Mārupe, Latvia.
  • Building area – 25 m2.
  • Status – design approved in 2015, completed in 2017.
  • Budget – 30 000 € (2015).
  • Collaborators – SPOT arhitekti.


The Character of the Place

Initial situation, a courtyard for a suburban house, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Initial situation, Mārupe, 2016

The placement and the outer perimeter of the building closely follow local building guidelines that define the main massing parameters. With the maximum allowed building area of 25 m2 and specific property distance requirements, the small object is settled in the depth of an existing land plot. Its external perimeter is strictly bound to the criteria set forward by the legal requirements.

The town of Mārupe is located on the outskirts of Riga city and is a booming suburban sprawl. Its context is highlighted by an assorted condition of visually diverse spatial structures that follow a typical suburban pattern. The exterior of the building is humble in appearance. It is an object placed at the far end of the plot; a garden element distant from the surrounding environment.

Strategy

Situation plan of the viba's sauna, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Situation plan

Designed as an autonomous entity, the object expands on its core functionality of sauna rituals. The tradition of sauna going is generally identified as a purifying experience that involves a physical and spiritual cleansing. Considering the implications of traditional craftsmanship within a setting inhabited by the New Vernacular, the common practice of heat bathing is adjusted and complimented with a new spatial and emotional experience. Following the already mentioned legal guidelines, the exterior of the building is independent of its surroundings, yet respectful to the context. The architectural experience is guided inwards where the internal geometric cohesion enables an uninterrupted spatial connection between various functional areas. These areas are visually unobstructed and extend towards the outer realm. This allows us to alter the actual size of the space and to make the small volume appear greater in size.

Spatial coupling is another principle that is paramount in the genesis of the objects’ spatial experience. Instead of focusing on certain spaces individually, we work with multiple spaces simultaneously and establish a common visual and material continuity. Interaction between multiple spaces achieves a balanced and unified setting for users to experience, regardless of where they are. The spatial coupling also helps us to organize different functional zones to craft various unique characters for specific zones. One can enjoy an unobstructed view through the lounge’s window, which is complemented by a warm wooden interior finish while resting in the sauna room. The window seen from the bath, on the other hand, is facing the other side of the yard and exposes the colder glass and stone elements. Thus, it creates a completely different and functionally corresponding spatial character that distances the user from the sauna room. The small space becomes an event and guides us through the ritual.

Diagram of compositional and programmatic organization of the viba's sauna, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Compositional and programmatic organization

Floor plan of the viba's sauna, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Floor plan

The object reflects on the sauna ritual as a contrast between hot and cold. It explores the event as an analogy to Axis Mundi which symbolizes the connection between Heaven and Earth. There are four functions present in the building – water (bath), fire (sauna), air (skylight) and earth (lounge), and they are organized around the main axis of the object. The most significant changes in temperature occur within the very first seconds of leaving the sauna room, which emphasizes an essential sensation to the heat bathing experience. The complexity of this precise moment inspires a very delicate approach to the curation of this specific moment in time. An opening in the roof is carved to fulfil the initial sensation of the temperature change. It is complemented with the chilling presence of outdoor space that clears itself not only in front but also towards the sky – above the person taking part in the ritual. The notion of Axis Mundi is emphasized through a conflux of seven interior planes that create a spatial continuum and challenge the purity of the detail.

A view of concrete spatial model from the top, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
A view within the concrete spatial model with the upper aperture illuminating the space, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
A view within the concrete spatial model, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Spatial model, 2015


Status – the project was completed in 2017.

Photographs by Filips Smits and Andrey Nikiforov.

Exterior view, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Exterior view towards the entrance of the sauna, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view towards the central sauna and bathing space and the upper aperture, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view of the bathing area with a view towards the courtyard, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis