AIASD Award Winner: Sauna Cube

Post and images submitted by Robert Arlt Architect.

The sauna cube is a self-designed and built project sited in the backyard of our central Sioux Falls Midcentury ranch house. The project started out imagined as a garden shed but changed during covid after taking a trip in the summer of 2020 and spending time at a remote cabin near Grand Marais, Minnesota near Lake Superior that also had a wood burning sauna cabin. With an unknown winter ahead, the intention was set to build a small, sculptural respite that celebrated the seasons while benefiting our health. 

The sliced 8’x8’x8’ cube is designed to allow for flexibility. Typical built-in benches are omitted in favor of a movable bench to allow for light exercise as the sauna heats up. Ash wood is used for the stove and is sourced sustainably through the city’s tree replacement program due to the recent finding of emerald ash borer in the area.

The plywood and 2×4 structure is wrapped in a skin of taut cargo mesh fabric embedded in a black liquid weather proof membrane that is vapor-open and UV-stable. The volumetric slice creates a skylight face allowing early morning sun into the wood interior as well as views out into the tree canopy. In winter, snow and ice is melted and causes the building to “sweat “ like the occupant, with visible streams running down the transparent surface.

Sauna Cube received a Merit Award in Architecture at the AIA SD 2021 Convention.

Robert Arlt

Robert Arlt Architect is an award winning architecture practice focusing on design success through crafting performative architecture –  integrating high performance strategies with contemporary architecture and fabrications. This pursuit has resulted in recognition for projects that rely on linking project research with concept designs and well executed materials, systems and details. The studio’s approach to architecture intends to integrate large and small scale components of design including light, color, function, landscape, materials, and low-carbon strategies to focus on how those aspects can impact the interface between users and the built environment. The studio also has experience in historic renovations, multifamily, institutional, and commercial/restaurant experience.  

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