Schvitz Stop

This year's Finnish Burning Man pavilion will let visitors steam in the desert

Rendering of Steam of Life, a usable sauna that will be installed at this year's Burning Man. (JKMM)

Helsinki-based architects at JKMM are designing this year’s Burning Man pavilion. In true Finnish style, the installation will be a full-fledged sauna.

Each year, the organizers of Burning Man, the festival-slash-anarcho-communist gathering in Nevada‘s Black Rock Desert, ask designers to envision and execute singular works of art. For the festival’s 2019 edition, organizers tapped JKMM and Sauna on Fire to design Steam of Life, a usable installation that’s intended to energize participants with a good schvitz and introduce people to Finnish sauna culture.

black and white rendering of a sauna

Rendering of a figure entering a steamy sauna. (JKMM)

The circular Steam of Life will be built from timber, and its spiraling program is meant to gradually transition visitors from the harsh and arid conditions outside into the moist spa bliss within. According to JKMM, a curving passage will beckon the sauna-ready through a darkened area as a soft transition from the desert’s brightness. The interior, meanwhile, is furnished with wooden benches and a stove. After the session, visitors will file into the shaded atrium at the center of the pavilion for a final cool down and relaxation.

circular diagram of sauna

Axonometric drawing of Steam of Life. (JKMM)

JKMM CEO Samppa Lappalainen selected architects Marcus Kujala, Hannu Rytky, and Päivi Aaltio from his firm to design the project, which will be built by Burners (Burning Man attendees) at the end of this month.

JKMM’s collaborators at Sauna on Fire are sponsoring a camp at Black Rock City—Burning Man attendees sort themselves out into camps—districts—organized around the burning effigy for which the gathering is named. Following this year’s theme of “metamorphosis,” Steam of Life‘s core values, according to its designers, are ” [co-creation], volunteerism and inclusion of diverse participant backgrounds. Through self-organizing as an organization model, we aim to empower participants to learn new skills and foster a positive spirit for learning via decentralized decision-making via the build of a sauna installation to Black Rock City. Moreover, in the long run, this way of organizing could foster new types of civic engagement and even address social problems such as marginalization in society. Ultimately, we wish to distribute our learnt [sic] knowledge about the co-created content to a wider audience.”

Purple and blue light up sauna against a dark night sky

The sauna at night. (JKMM)

But there will be no funny business along the road to a better society. A concept packet released by Sauna on Fire maintains it is not a “party camp” or “XXX,” and notes that there should be no “wild sex orgy in the sauna.” Keep it clean, y’all.

The earnest design of Steam of Life will complement this year’s Burning Man central temple. Designed by San Francisco architect Geordie Van Der Bosch, the temple references the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

For those who have tickets, Burning Man begins next Sunday, August 25 and runs through September 2.

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