Repurposing Shipping Infrastructure Into a Public Sauna

In Göteborg, Sweden, firm Raumlaborberlin created a new use for the city’s disused waterfront structures – repurposing shipping infrastructure to become a public sauna.

Shipping and maritime trade are part of the DNA of Göteborg. During the height of its sea-faring heritage, tobacco, sugar and herring brought great wealth to the city, and wealthy merchants developed the sea front and city canals into statements of industry and prosperity. The relationship with the sea and its bounty inseparable from the identity and character of the city.

As the shipping industry declined in the later half of the 1900s, Göteborg transitioned from an industrial sea side town into an innovative modern city. To the imaginative observer, monuments to the city’s shipping heritage still exist along the waterways of the city, in the form of structures known as “Dolphins” (dykdalbs), the mooring structures used to ships as they docked in the city. Instead of allowing them to fade into obsolescence and degrade along with so much industrial infrastructure, the city chose to find new use for its shipping infrastructure moorings to for the wellbeing of the city’s residents.

The firm’s inspiration for the new use for the city’s legacy shipping infrastructure, writes Raumlaborberlin:

Public baths were once an intense place for social gathe­rings in our cities. They were places not only for relaxation and sport but also for politics, discussion, business deals, eroticism, hedonism and crime. This has been lost in our cities and substituted with the more bleak and leisure-based public swimming pools and spas. We see the baths as a social space to meet people, spend time together and discuss life. The sensorial qualities of the baths provide us with a place where there is no competition, consumption or spectacle, but where the focus is purely on sharing spaces and thoughts, and enjoying and benefiting from the water.

Raumlaborberlin

The great tradition and pride in the city’s relationship with the sea was apparent during public consultations when Göteborg’s Jubilee Park was in the early stages of development. Core themes of a desire to “bathe in the middle of town”, and an overriding message that the city should “meet the water” were paramount to residents. With these ideas in mind, Raumlaborberlin realized it was time to call one of the mooring structures back into service for the city in the modern day.

As part of a larger idea for a whole bathing culture to be developed along the water, they designed a sauna, with one of the city’s mooring structures serving as its foundation. Constructed with a high percentage of recycled materials, the sauna’s façade is made of recovered sheet metal, and the shower room walls are built of 12,000 recycled glass bottles.