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Discover the world of mobile sauna design

Thanks to a mobile sauna, students at the Burg Giebichenstein Art Academy can treat themselves to a round of sweating, chatting and chilling after a long day of lectures on campus. The idea came from product design students Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber and was inspired by the university's location in Halle.

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

(Photo credits: Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber)

Step into this mobile sauna

The sauna seats three people – or five if you want something more cosy – and is made from polycarbonate, meaning it weighs just around 300kg and can be pulled to the ideal spot like a giant wheelbarrow. There are plenty of these, as the campus is located on the Saale River, which is perfect for showering off.

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

(Photo credits: Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber)

And while the sauna looks cool, it definitely doesn't feel that way. Inside, temperatures reach 110 degrees Celsius, and Gerlach and his team “put tons of pressure on the oven to test the resilience of the polycarbonate, which contracts and expands when exposed to heat. It moves so much that bolts would have cracked it, so we welded all three layers to a steel frame.”

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

(Photo credits: Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber)

A year later, the sauna is still in operation. It's free to use; all guests have to do is stoke the fire (from outside, which minimizes mess and maximizes space), make a donation, and clean up afterward. And since we're in Germany, everyone is naked, but the transparent facade means that the bodies inside are only visible as silhouettes.

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

Mobile sauna by Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber

(Photo credits: Friedrich Gerlach, Sophia Reißenweber and Emil Löber)

If it attracts too much attention (which is often the case), it can be dragged to a more secluded spot by eager bathers. “It would be very cool to make it and take it on tour,” says Gerlach, who sees his sauna as “playful rebellion that challenges the status quo and brings a place of calm and care to the heart of the city.”

Aspen Saunas

Polycarbonate installation by Aspen Saunas in Oxfordshire

(Image credit: Aspen Saunas)

A “plastic sauna” may not sound very plausible, but these inexpensive, lightweight sweatboxes are a popular option for those with a knack for DIY and who like to experiment. In the UK, carpenter and sauna enthusiast Jamie Holden built a clear sweatbox in his garden in Sea Palling, Norfolk, and Michael Antoniuk of Aspen Saunas has installed his first polycarbonate sauna with cold water basin on a farm in Oxfordshire.

Aspen Saunas

(Image credit: Aspen Saunas)

And in Norway, Estudio Herreros, the architecture firm behind Oslo's Munch Museum, has created a floating sauna using another unusual material – powder-coated recycled aluminum. Commissioned by the Oslo Sauna Association, it's another design-led sweat cabin on the city's fjord. The hot-cold contrast therapy is so popular in the city that even the royal family turned up for the opening.

Estudio Herreros / Oslo Sauna Association

The sauna by Estudio Herreros for the Oslo Sauna Association, with the Munch Museum in the background

(Image credit: Estudio Herreros)

With these new approaches to an ancient art, saunas are gaining new fans who are attracted by the invigorating mix of well-being, relaxation and conviviality.

Estudio Herreros / Oslo Sauna Association

The floating sauna is made of recycled aluminum

(Image credit: Estudio Herreros)

Estudio Herreros / Oslo Sauna Association

(Image credit: Estudio Herreros)

Emma O'Kelly's book, Sauna: The power of deep heatis available at Amazon