A Swedish Coastal Town Commissions an Otherworldly Bathhouse

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By Melissa Dalton
The first impression of the Kallbadhus ("the cold bathhouse") is that it hovers over the water.

"The building is almost like a flying saucer that has landed on its long legs," says architect Sven Gustafsson from White Arkitekter in a video on the firm's website. The bathhouse's suspension over the water is also what allows it to merge so beautifully with its natural setting—that being the southern coastline of Sweden at the town of Karlshamn. The project was commissioned by a local organization there called the Kallbadhusets Vänner (or Friends of the Bathhouse) in order to pay tribute to a "long surviving tradition of bathing in the sea."  

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The bathhouse is poised three meters over the water's surface with a bridge linking it to land and providing entry. 

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The common room and sun deck at the back are flanked by men's and women's saunas, with distant views of the archipelago accessible via glass panels. Says Gustafsson, "Whether you're on the sun deck, in the sauna or in the common room, you have an optimized view of the archipelago, thanks to the viewing angle which is the point of departure for this project."

The exterior is clad in grey-pigmented wood paneling that will eventually patina to a natural grey.  

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Every detail of the bathhouse speaks to a modern interpretation of tradition. "The enticement lies in the fact that it isn't a traditional bathhouse with romantic gingerbread work," said Gustafsson. "It has a different expression." 

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