Architecture students from the University of Westminster are a major part of the team responsible for designing and building The Finnish Sauna for the London Festival of Architecture. Due to the collaborative nature of this unique project, we were keen to gain further insight from a member of the team.
One of the students involved in the project, Erika Boguckaite, took the time to answer some of our questions.
How did you get involved in the Sauna project?
Erika: “University of Westminster’s Fabrication Lab workshop team members that haven’t participated in a Tea House Pavilion project this year have been offered to be a part of the Sauna project. I was one of the new team members who got an invitation.”
Have you been to a sauna before this project? How familiar were you with them?
Erika: “Yes, I’ve been in saunas a few times before but only when I was a kid following my parents. Now it’s been a long time since I visited one. I do remember my grandmother’s old sauna, as well as new public ones but as a kid I never paid attention to the great details of the sauna. Some of those details and the atmosphere of the sauna still stayed in my memory.”
What has the project consisted of so far?
Erika: “At the beginning the team had a designing workshop where we all tried to combine our ideas into one and come to certain conclusions. After the workshop, we continued designing, researching and focusing on specific details: drawing more detailed plans, researching materials, and making 3D models as well as physical ones at a 1:20 scale. We have also been prototyping specific parts of the sauna such as the timber joints, some structural elements, and window frames at 1:1 scale, cutting them by hand and also testing them using digital fabrication tools.”
What has been the most interesting or inspiring, or your favourite part of the project?
Erika: “Personally, it was very interesting to see how people interpret the sauna since we had people in the team who had never been to one. The designing process was pretty interesting, as we had an opportunity to expand our knowledge about Finnish saunas. However, the most exciting part was to start prototyping the sauna’s sections and testing ideas on little models, in that way we could bring our sauna into reality.”
What have you found most challenging?
Erika: “Since we all are fresh graduates or still students, we do lack experience of how to work in a team. It wasn’t easy to find a common language between us and I feel like we could have been communicating better, but we can learn from this experience and take our new knowledge into future projects.”
Is there something you are particularly looking forward to in this project?
Erika: “Probably the same as my colleagues: we are all looking forward to seeing the final result and experiencing our sauna. Besides that I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of magic digital fabrication and handwork can do with timber! But the most exciting part is going to be the building process for sure – the pre-fabrication and building on site.”
Erika Boguckaite is part of a team of students and recent graduates who are designing and building The Finnish Sauna with architect Sami Rintala. She has a BA in Architecture from the University of Westminster, having graduated in 2021. She started working at the University of Westminster’s Fabrication Lab during her studies and after graduating became a full-time Assistant Technician.
Image from the sauna building workshop this spring. Photo: Annika Pellonpää