Steam of Life

Circle-shaped Steam of Life Pavilion, co-designed by JKMM architects and Sauna on Fire collective, will be built in Burning Man festival to offer the sequenced sauna experience, as a deconstructed art installation.

“Steam of Life”, the co-created timber pavilion, embodies the typical physical elements of a Finnish sauna. It is a human scale wooden building, minimalistic in its aesthetic and focused on embracing ambient natural light and shade, in response to what will be a major gathering within a hot desert environment. A passageway will guide visitors to circulate through the round shaped sauna pavilion. Stepping in from the harsh desert light, visitors enter a low-lit passage that leads to the “löylyhuone” steam room, the heart of a Finnish Sauna, with wooden benches and the “kiuas” stove. After enjoying a sauna, visitors will enter a softly-lit space opening onto the atrium yard in the middle of the pavilion. In the absence of a lake, sea or a pile of snow to dip into, the atrium yard offers a shaded oasis for cooling down and meditative relaxing. Just like saunas in Finland, Steam of Life -pavilion is about capturing the same ideal of a shared sense of humanity in a memorable and timeless way.


Sauna Metamorphosis

Samppa Lappalainen, architect and CEO at JKMM on the making of the Steam of Life Pavilion for the Playa:

“We wanted to respond to the idea metamorphosis with our sauna. So, our pavilion is all about cleansing and renewal.

At first, we were looking at an enfilade of spaces from refreshing shower rooms and washing areas to hotter spaces like the sauna itself. To take into account the high number of visitors to the sauna, the enfilade approach seemed impractical and we opted for a circulation route that goes around the building. This gives guests the opportunity to relive their bathing experience as part of what is intended to feel like a regenerative cycle. We also wanted the sauna pavilion to be a nurturing and relaxing space that provides shade and a sense of intimacy. All within the hustle and bustle of the sweltering expanses of the Playa.”; “A great deal of effort has gone into making the sauna pavilion practical to pack, transport and finally build on site. This is why we have sought to minimise the number of building components. There are basically two sizes of plywood panels in use and three lengths of timber slats. The entire pavilion will fit into what is essentially half a shipping container. It has also been designed so that it can be easily erected in years to come.”


About Burning Man

Burning Man Project’s mission is to produce the annual event known as Burning Man and to guide, nurture and protect the more permanent community created by its culture. Their intention is to generate society that connects each individual to his or her creative powers, to participation in community, to the larger realm of civic life, and to the even greater world of nature that exists beyond society.

This year’s theme, metamorphoses, is a celebration of change, and an exploration of uncertainty. As such it invites a consideration of time; not its circular nature, or its attendant ritual, but in this case the relentless flight of time’s arrow, and an embrace of the elusive now. Memory is fickle, and the future is uncertain. None of us knows what he or she will become, but we can seek to understand where we are at this point in our transformative trajectory, this fleeting chord on the strings of existence

© Lukasz Szczepanski

About JKMM

JKMM Architects is a 100-strong group of architects and designers based in Helsinki, Finland. Founded twenty years ago on the back of a competition winning project for Turku City Library, the practice continues to work on major public buildings in Finland. The practice’s work is diverse ranging from housing to schools, libraries to concert halls, museums to hospitals.

Amos Rex, a new underground art museum in Helsinki city centre, was completed by JKMM in August 2018. Many of the projects by JKMM also involve working with existing buildings such as the extension of the Alvar Aalto designed Seinäjoki Library and more recently the Finlandia Prize winning restoration and reconfiguration of the interiors of Aalto’s library in Otaniemi.

About Sauna On Fire

The Sauna on Fire is a Helsinki based international platform for participatory culture and civic engagement. It is co-created by a voluntary team of diverse professional backgrounds. Previously, the team has realized co-created Burning Man projects such as The Cosmic Egg, Koulu The School, and Pike of Mana. The community is also connected to a team of academics from Aalto University, Helsinki, who are studying Burning Man culture via Burning Stories research project. and