Saunas are common in Scandinavia -- there are millions of them, three million in Finland alone. They are considered a place for people to relax and unwind, but also a place to talk about important issues of the day -- the Nordic equivalent to the Parisian café.
Building on this established tradition of the sauna as a community gathering place, Swedish artists Lars Bergström and Mats Bigert of Studio Bigert & Bergström created this dazzling sauna out of wood that's meant as a modern sculptural symbol of "rebirth", an "incubator that nurtures conversation and exchanges of ideas," in response to massive environmental and cultural changes that are happening in the Kiruna, Sweden's most northern town -- as a result of expanding mining operations by the LKAB mining company. Watch this quick tour via Designboom:
Commissioned by Riksbyggen, a local housing cooperative, and standing five meters high by four meters wide (16 by 13 feet), the ovoid Solar Egg's multifaceted surface is clad with gold-coloured stainless steel sheeting, which reflects the landscape of sky and iron ore fields on its shiny skin. The structure consists of 69 pieces which can be easily dismantled for reuse elsewhere.
Inside, the Solar Egg is covered with wall panels and floor planks made out of pine and aspen. The interior temperature is kept between 75° and 85° Celsius (167 to 185 Fahrenheit) by a sculptural wood-burning stove made out of iron and stone. It's a real work of art, and is made to look like a heart -- a nice dose of thought-provoking symbolism here.
The sauna has a quite a quirk factor, but the artists' intent was to create a communal place for locals to gather to discuss the complex social, economic and ecological issues affecting the town:
Kiruna is currently undergoing a radical transformation, which involves a gigantic move for the whole town. This is so that the mining company LKAB can extract more of the iron seam that cuts diagonally downwards beneath the town. The iron ore is and has been – ever since it first began to be extracted at the end of the 19th century – an important source of income for Sweden, and absolutely vital for the town of Kiruna. No mine, no town. But the breaking up and devastating transformation of the landscape, the environment and the architecture caused by the move are also sparking a lot of debate. Solar Egg has been made as a social sculpture where local people and visitors to the town can meet and, for instance, discuss these challenges.
This small but impactful installation belies the fact that there's a lot at stake here in Kiruna. Yet, these conversations about the intersection of environmental protection, sustainable resource and community development, and humanity's ultimate role in nature must be encouraged. It's one of the countless dialogues for the planet's future that are going on all over the world, and it's important that there is a place for them to happen. To see more, visit Studio Bigert & Bergström.