The past month has been an ambitions one, full of connections, generosity, and experiential learning! The map below is a rough overview of my route to date. Since my last post, I crossed Sweden into Finland, delving deeper into the experience of Sauna.
Highlights of the past month include:
- Visits with previous Valle Scholars in Stockholm and relatives in Toreboda! In Stockholm, I met with “Valle Friends” Andre, Tolla, and Hannah, visited KTH and ArkDes, and returned to several of my favorite spots in Stockholm (Woodland Cemetery, the Stockholm Public Library, bakeries, and more). My September route included taking a ferry to Finland. The Baltic Sea Ferries are more like cruise ships; they include saunas, restaurants, and more – and yes, I did “sauna” on the ferry! After travel around Finland, my route included a “loop” heading north over the Gulf of Bothnia and back into Sweden. On the second round, I met with relatives in Toreboda, checking in on a historic preservation project of the one-room “backstuga” that my great-great-great grandmother lived in.
- (in progress!)
The past month of travel and research has mostly been in Norway. I joined forces with another Valle Scholar, Ryan Galliford, to make a whirlwind tour of Norwegian architecture and landscape architecture sites, travelling by bicycle, rental car, train, and ferry. Highlights of the trip include:
- Travel along four of the famous Norwegian Tourist Routes: Trollstigen, Ryfylke, Jæren, and Lofoten. These are winding two-lane roads studded with unique architectural interventions, including historic preservation projects, cantilevered steel and glass overlooks, and Peter Zumthor’s famous “Mining Museum.”
- The architecture along the tourist routes is incredible: We visited a contemporary DNT Lodge at the trailhead of Preikestolen, designed by the firm “Helen and Hard” with a unique mass timber system that minimizes glue by using dowels, and includes wood from a diversity of tree species. We also made pilgrimages to several Sverre Fehn projects, including the Hamar Museum, the Ivar Aasen Center, the Glacier Museum, and the National Architecture Archive in Oslo.
- Visits to “micro-architecture” saunas. The saunas located in Norway were mostly smaller, private, and very unique. One was built by a group of students via the “Scarcity and Creativity Studio” in the historic fishing village of Nusfjord in the Lofotens. Another was built from trash found in Oslo Fjord, and is tied up and floating near the city’s waterfront boardwalk. These saunas need to be rented in advance. While they are intriguing, my impression is that “sauna” is more of a novelty in Norway than it is a consistent practice.
- Meeting with local architects: In Olso we met with Ingerid Helsing Almaas, Editor of Archtiecture N and with Einar Jarmund of JVA Architects. Yesterday we met with Sami Rintala. Sami is a Finnish architect who practices design/build globally but lives in Bodo. He had a lot to say about Sauna, and showed us his home, studio, sauna, smokehouse, and workshop, all of which he designed/built to fit into a small lot on a steep hillside.
In truth, each of these highlights deserves dedicated posts with photos and descriptions. This is something that I hope to expand on later as I reflect on the trip. For now, here are a few photos from the Lofotens:
In Summer 2016 the Scan|Design Master Studio, an interdisciplinary studio lead by Nancy Rottle, Jim Nicholls, and TA Bill Estes, brought a team of students from Seattle to Copenhagen, Denmark. For three weeks we studied integrated storm water strategies, bicycle infrastructure, plazas/parks, green roofs, courtyards, and more. We engaged these dynamic public spaces through interviews, sketches, diagrams, and physically “pacing them off” to measure them relative to human scale.
Mid-trip, we crossed the Øresund from Copenhagen to Malmö. It was here that I encountered a historic yet innovative public space: Ribersborgs Kallbadhus. “Kallbadhus” literally translates “cold bath house,” and is a place where bathers can change, shower, and relax before and after swimming in the sea. Cold bathing is practiced year-round, and supports community and health by inviting participants to care for their own bodies, share a ritual, and experience the elements.
Ribersborgs Kallbadhus was constructed in 1898, and added its first wood-fired sauna in 1962. Like the Finnish sauna, kallbadhus is meant to be an accessible and frequently visited space. A visitor’s entry fee is under $10, and I was able to visit a few times in our short trip. Many locals visit several times per week as members, generating an atmosphere that is at once reflective and inviting.
While culture, economy, and community Malmö have seen dramatic change since the kallbadhus opened in 1898, the wooden structure remains a place that feels almost separate from time. I loved visiting there to experience the warmth of the sauna, the cool of the sea, and the strength of community. The changing areas and sun decks are gendered, and it was incredible to see women of all ages and body-types congregating and sharing the space freely. The kallbadhus ritual is about connection to landscape accompanied by a feeling of simple togetherness that is largely absent from our culture today.
This experience led me to develop a proposal to explore “Bastu, Skog och Modern Metod” (Sauna, Forest, and Modern Method). I wanted to learn more about the tradition of sauna and cold bathing, its relationship to local resources, and how it has adapted to cultural change over time.
In spring, 2017, I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship to travel and study “sauna” via the Valle Scholarship and Scandinavian Exchange Program, so today, I am back in Malmö with my partner, Ryan Galliford, who is researching a topic of his own. We’ve brought our bicycles, and have several interviews and site visits scheduled, so over time I’ll add case studies, sketches, and travel stories to this site. For now, its time to visit the Øresund.