Amazing Places

What's the Story Behind This Giant, Golden Egg-Shaped Sauna?

In Swedish culture, it's tradition to sweat out your stresses in a piping hot sauna. So it makes sense that when the town of Kiruna, Sweden learned they'd need to relocate to stable land after decades of damage from mining, they were gifted a giant, egg-shaped sauna to ease the transition.

Sink Hole

It all began in 2004, when Sweden's northernmost town of Kiruna, famous for its ice hotel and beautiful red church, realized it was sinking. After years of supplying 90 percent of Europe's iron ore through mining, the rocks under the mining site shifted, leaving Kiruna with irreparable damage to its foundation — and unsafe living conditions as a result.

Instead of evacuating, Kiruna made a 20-year plan to relocate the entire town — including the city center, residences, shops, and historical buildings — to "New Kiruna," safer land 2 miles east of the mining site. People's homes would be purchased for full price plus 25 percent, or they could opt for a new home free of charge. Understandably, the news put the city in quite a tizzy. To ease the transition, two prominent architects were commissioned to help in the most Swedish of fashions — they would build Kiruna a sauna.

Sweat It Out

Relocating an entire town is an exceptional situation. So naturally, it called for an egg-ceptional sauna. (We couldn't help ourselves.) Architects Bigert and Bergström created what they call the "Solar Egg," a 15-foot gold-plated egg-shaped sauna designed to be a functional social sculpture symbolizing the rebirth of Kiruna through its urban transformation. The sauna provides a warm place for residents and officials to come together and discuss the situation, while boosting community spirit during a difficult time.

The exterior of the "Solar Egg" features 69 pieces of gold-plated steel that reflect Kiruna's snowy surroundings and make reference to its Arctic climate. The interior is made of pine and aspen wood, with tiered seating that can hold up to eight people. The heat is controlled by a heart-shaped wood burning stove in the center.

While the topics of climate change and natural resources are dominating conversations globally, it's important to understand that in a remote town such as Kiruna, iron ore has been the main source of income for more than a century, and it's a necessity for the town's survival. 96 percent of Kiruna's residents support the decision to relocate, as it will save the town's economy by allowing mining to continue at the extraction site for years to come. Here's to new beginnings!

Want more Swedish in your life? Check out "Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break, with Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats" by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Gabriel April 13, 2018

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