When architecture and design firm Partisans was commissioned to build a free-standing structure that not only respected but also matured from its contextual surroundings—a serene landscape along the blue waters of Lake Huron outside of Toronto—they had to take into account the prehistoric large-scale rock formation on which they were instructed to build. Here, we choose three words to explain just how the team used cutting-edge software and fabrication technology to create an environmentally friendly grotto sauna that pays homage to the area’s extremities in the form of an architectural experience.
Prefabricate \(ˌ)prē-ˈfa-bri-ˌkāt\ (verb)
To fabricate parts at a factory so that construction consists mainly of assembling and uniting standardized parts. In partnership with MCM Inc., Partisans developed original fabrication techniques to design the sculptural wood components that would emulate the walls of a “grotto.” The team rewrote the software code that Mastercam would eventually use to mill the sculptural wood, using state-of-the-art 3D technology to scan, model, and build the Grotto in Ontario (all the while using double and triple glazed high efficiency annealed glass to ensure high-energy savings and durability).
Context \ˈkän-ˌtekst\ (noun)
The situation in which something happens. Inspired by an Italian grotto, the client behind this dreamy retreat on the northwest edge of an island on the Georgian Bay wanted the architecture to tell a story of escape and refuge. The design team created an exterior crafted from charred cedar, which conveys a weathered appearance—“as if the building has been hidden in plain sight for centuries.” The curved interior also is meant to emulate Lake Huron’s waves, while the interior cedar panels were reclaimed from local forests.
Sustainable \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\ (adj.)
Involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources. In addition to the use of reclaimed wood, all interior and exterior products within the Grotto are either non-emitting/ non-VOC or were derived organically. Additionally, energy efficiency is maximized via a high-performance rainscreen enclosure with spray insulation and double- and triple-paned glass. Island solar power also provides electricity for the heaters and LED lights. And perhaps most interesting is the fact that one single faucet inside the sauna is fed by lake water, further ensuring that all of the energy use is completely sustainable.