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Steam, sweat, soak, repeat – it can be be hard to truly improve the Finnish sauna experience. But designers have been experimenting with the idea of a floating sauna. Instead of paying big bucks to relax in expensive spas (where mystical crystals may or may not change your life), a return to the classic sauna – now bobbing in its own cold plunge pool – is making waves.

Seattle’s Lake Union has floating spas from goCstudio Architecture + Design (Handout)


This August, look out over Seattle’s Lake Union for floating spas from goCstudio Architecture + Design. “We wanted to design something fun and recreational … that people can get to by kayak and canoe,” architect Aimee O’Carroll said.

Accommodating up to six people, the cedar siding exterior is built on an aluminum frame and stays buoyant with 208-litre flotation barrels. A ladder leads up to the roof deck for suntaning and the dock can moor kayaks and canoes. Designers used Finnleo, a Finnish company, to supply Nordic white spruce for the interior and an efficient Finnish wood-burning sauna stove. “People will be able to book it online and the sauna will be towed back to a marina for cleaning each night,” O’Carroll said. “But you have to bring your own towel!”

Wooden homes on Russia's Ugra River (Sami Rintela, Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Nikola-Lenivets, Russia

In 2008, a flotilla of seaworthy wooden homes floated down Russia’s Ugra River during the Kaluga International Festival of Landscape Objects. One of them – a beautifully-crafted floating sauna – stood out. It had a pine tree growing through it up to the rooftop deck and a dressing room with billowy curtains for privacy. Since then, the sauna and floating homes are rented out each year to vacationers to the artistic village of Nikola-Lenivets village, about 200 kilometres from Moscow. The sauna was designed by Sami Rintela and Dagur Eggertsson of Rintala Eggertsson Architects in Oslo.

“In time, the wood will become grey from river water and rain, and the sauna will have a lovely fragrance of tar and smoke,” Rintala said.

Bota Bota spa floats in the St. Lawrence and merges into the Lachine Canal. (Sid Lee Architecture)


Bota Bota spa floats in the St. Lawrence (tethered to a dock) and merges into the Lachine Canal. It’s designed like a very modern ocean liner with 25,000 square feet on five levels. In 2010, Jean Pelland, principal at Sid Lee Architecture, Montreal was commissioned by the French Canadian Emond family to transform an old ferry, into a floating spa. (New gardens and pool were added this year.)

“The two Finnish saunas on the highest level, have become a ritual for many people,” says Pelland, adding it offers an almost panoramic view from the two saunas of Habitat 67 and Old Montreal. “Personally, I think it’s most beautiful in the winter – imagine having a sauna with this amazing clean, snowy view and just a gentle rocking on the waves.”