Architect: goCstudio

Location: Seattle, Washington

Category One: Up to $150,000 in construction costs

The process of crowdfunding the project attracted almost 500 funders who enabled wa_sauna to be built.


The program for wa_sauna is very simple: to create a floating sauna that could be registered as a self-propelled vessel and shared with the community on the lakes of Seattle.

Wa_sauna is a project born from a desire to find a way to engage the water surrounding Seattle and to entice visitors onto the lakes year-round. The project focuses on the primal concepts of fire, water, and community; it stems from two previous design competitions that explored floating structures and the traditions of bathhouses. Wa_sauna engages the ideas of journey and discovery; creating a unique experience and refuge on the water that offers a different perspective on the landscape.

"The wa_sauna project captured the spirit of the 'small projects, big impact' theme." ~ Jury comment

As a small practice seeking to develop work which reflects the values and ideals of the projects we want to pursue, goCstudio sought to design, fund, and build this project. The project was funded through the support of the local community and a crowdfunding campaign in the fall of 2014. In the same spirit, the project was built by the studio themselves and a team of talented volunteers, all with close connections to the architecture community and unique construction skills. A large space in the production warehouse of a local brewery was generously donated, and fabrication began in July 2015.

"Suspended within the expanse of the lake, this modest project offers a set of intimate and specific experiences of being on the water." ~ Jury comment

It was important that the sauna be powered in an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly manner, as it is intended to be a contemplative experience that isn’t interrupted by the loud noises of a gas engine. For this reason, an electric trolling motor with (3) 12-volt batteries was used to power the sauna. The interior space is heated by a simple efficient wood burning stove.

Wa_sauna can now be seen quietly exploring Seattle’s lakes on a regular basis, allowing users to find peace and quiet in the warmth of the sauna, with endless unique views of Seattle.

Additional information

Structural Engineer: Swenson Say Fagét


2016 Small Projects Awards Jury

Marika Snider, AIA (Chair), Snider Architecture, Beavercreek, Ohio

Will Bruder, FAIA, Will Bruder Architects, Phoenix

Mira Locher, FAIA, Kajika Architecture PLLC, Salt Lake City

Elizabeth Ranieri, FAIA, Kuth Ranieri, San Francisco

Jonathan Tate, Office Jonathan Tate, New Orleans

Image credits

wa_sauna 1

Kevin Scott

wa_sauna 2

Kevin Scott

wa_sauna 3

Kevin Scott