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British architect wins AIA Small Project award for floating sauna

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goCstudio has revealed this award-winning £25,000 floating sauna in Seattle 


Led by Jon Gentry and Aimee O’Carroll – an architect originally from London – the Seattle-based practice won a 2016 National Small Projects award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for wa_sauna, an electric motor-powered floating sauna.

The sauna, which provides space for six people, was built on an aluminium frame with a marine-grade plywood platform, a stained plywood shell and a spruce interior. 

Funded by a kickstarter campaign, the 73m² floating structure was built by the architects themselves. 

Commenting on the project the AIA jury said: ‘The wa_sauna project captured the spirit of ‘small projects, big impact’ theme. Suspended within the expanse of the lake, this modest project offers a set of intimate and specific experiences of being on the water. I love the open possibilities…to meditate, to play, to swim, to visit. I also appreciate the gritty kit-of-parts assembly; again, creating unexpected relationships from common means.’ 

wa_sauna by goCstudio

wa_sauna by goCstudio

Architect’s view 

The idea for the floating sauna was born on a cold and wet winter’s day in January 2014. 

Combining our love of the water, the relaxing dry heat of saunas, and floating structures, the project began to take shape. We focused on primal concepts of fire, water, and community. We were searching for a way to engage the water surrounding our city, enticing visitors onto the lakes year round. We called this project ‘wa_sauna’ and felt it would be a welcome addition to the Pacific Northwest landscape and its adventurous people. 

wa_sauna engages the ideas of journey and discovery; creating a unique experience and refuge on the water that offers a different perspective on the landscape. Boaters and kayakers can venture out and tie off to the surrounding deck, allowing for the sauna tradition to take place on Seattle’s lakes. 

wa_sauna by goCstudio

wa_sauna by goCstudio

Project data

Location Seattle
Type of project sauna
Architect goCstudio
Engineer Kevin Winner, Swenson Say Faget
Cost £25,000
Area 73m2
Completed May 2015

wa_sauna by goCstudio

wa_sauna by goCstudio


Marine-grade plywood with clear varnish 

Preservative Treated plywood w/ semi-transparent ebony stain 

Sarnatil G-410 roofing membrane 

Slot windows
3/8” clear acrylic panels 

Walls and ceiling
T&G Spruce 

Marine-grade plywood with clear varnish 



Deck frame
Pre-manufactured aluminum frame by Rolling Barge 

55 gallon plastic drums 

Minn Kota Electric Trolling Motor, 112 lb 36-volt 

12-volt Optimum deep-cycle marine batteries 

Wood burning sauna stove
Black Line Series 16 CK 

Sauna interior kit

Flue pipe


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