Solar Sauna: The Solar Egg in Graphis Journal #365

When you hear the word ‘sauna’, a log cabin-like building is probably what comes to mind. While there’s nothing wrong with that classic design, it’s interesting to see what designers think up for redesigns, such as the Solar Egg.

The Solar Egg by Swedish designers Bigert & Bergström for Riksbyggen (a Swedish housing company) is a sculptural sauna shaped like an egg that has been installed in various locations around the world. Photographed by Jean Babtiste Béranger, the egg’s first location was in Luossabacken in Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost town, in 2017. Made out of sixty-nine pieces of stainless golden mirror sheeting, which form to make the oval shape, the egg reflects a variety of different mirror images. The interior is made from wood; the paneling in the walls and floor are made of pine, and the bench, which has room for up to eight people, is made from aspen. At the center of the egg is the wood-fired burner, inside an iron cage in the shape of an anatomical heart. The burner is full of large stones that manage the heat, and the temperature is between 75° and 85° Celsius. Outside the egg, there is a flight of drawbridge stairs that are directly in front of the doorway, which is able to be lowered down into the snow so visitors can enter.

The finished product was deliberately placed in a cold climate, to have the snowy environment reflected in the mirrored surface on the outside of the egg. When the Solar Egg was first created and placed in Kiruna, the town was in the middle of an ongoing debate; the local people had to move due to the mining company LKAB. The company wanted to take out more of the iron seam cutting downwards underneath the town and will continue to mine for the next twenty years. Mining has been a vital source of income for Kiruna and Sweden, but that also meant that the land would be heavily altered in order to do so, and a debate about the environment and architecture began. For the townspeople, who expressed worries about losing community spirit after having to move, the Solar Egg is a place for people to come together and share their ideas on these issues. Bigert & Bergström have made this as a way to integrate the environment with the artwork and is an extension of a project started in 1994 called Climate Chambers, featuring five chambers with extreme climates in each one: freeze, storm, heat, light, and steam.

To read more about the Solar Egg and discover other amazing buildings, check out Graphis Journal #365, which can be purchased online at graphis.com.