Grotto Sauna Toronto, Residential Ontario, Georgian Bay Building, Canadian Lake Images

Grotto Sauna Toronto Building

Georgian Bay Residential Sauna, Ontario: Canadian Lake – design by Partisans, Architects

1 Jan 2016

Grotto Sauna in Toronto

Design: Partisans

Location: island in Georgian Bay, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Grotto Sauna Freestanding Residential Sauna by Partisans is Winner in Architecture, Building and Structure Design Category, 2014 – 2015.

Grotto Sauna in Toronto

Grotto Sauna Toronto

Grotto Sauna

Freestanding Residential Sauna

Inspiration came directly from the site, an island located in Georgian Bay, Canada. The unique and rugged landscape is a prehistoric geological record, carved by shifting plates and glacial erosion. We were also inspired by the notion of a Grotto, a secret internal world, internally carved by natural forces. Thus, we were inspired to create a piece of architecture that evolved out of its surroundings. Outside, the sauna is a mysterious object embedded in the landscape, while within awaits a sublime world of complexity, wonder and delight.

Grotto Sauna Toronto

The craggy island, which sits in the midst of some of Canada’s most pristine wilderness, posed substantial logistical challenges that required inventive design and sustainability solutions. We enlisted everyone at the studio to pitch design ideas based on digital scans of the site, which allowed optimal orientation of the building with minimal excavation and maximized creative input. Prefabricating the sauna and delivering it to the island significantly reduced the potential time spent on site as well as construction impact on the environment.

The sauna optimizes performance through pre-fab construction and uniting cutting edge technology with old-world hand craftsmanship.

The design began in 2013 at our studio in Toronto. In March 2014, prototyping of the panels and fabrication of the steel cage began in Toronto. The prefab building was completed in Toronto mid-June, 2014 and delivered to the site. On-site construction lasted three weeks and ended August 2014.

Architecture, Building and Structure Design

Grotto Sauna Toronto

Challenging the standards of current practices in the construction industry, we worked directly with a millwork and steel fabrication partner, MCM 2001 Inc. Together, we developed a new process of fabrication; developing prototypes and utilizing state-of-the-art 3-D technology to scan, model and build the Grotto. The process led to a new-found understanding for the properties of materials.

73.2 square meters 6m x 12.2m

Sauna, Grotto, Island, Wood, CNC, Carved, Fluid, Canada, Architecture, Toronto

In partnership with MCM Inc., we developed novel fabrication techniques to design the sculptural wood components that would emulate the walls of a “grotto” – in this case a partially hidden “cave” built directly into the Precambrian shield for the chief purpose of savouring the landscape. Our technologically savvy team rewrote the software code Mastercam would eventually adopt to mill the pieces.

Grotto Sauna Toronto

The team faced a great number of regulatory and logistical challenges in building the finely crafted structure at the shore of an inhospitable and remote wilderness island. The building must withstand ice flows from the lake in the winter while accommodating the extreme heat and humidity of the sauna inside. In addition, fabricating the panels took great technical skill. To achieve all this, the building was constructed as a pre-fab construction project and then delivered by truck and barge and then craned into place on the island.

Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash, Jonathan Friedman, Ivan Vasyliv, Betty Vuong and

Images: Photographer Jonathan Friedman, Grotto Sauna, 2014.
Video Credits: Richard Liani; Sound & Editing: Chris Franchetto, 2014.

Grotto Sauna Toronto


PARTISANS designs objects, designs architecture, designs cities, designs concepts, and even ideas. We strive to make the improbable possible and the impossible viable, at all scales and media. Our curiosities are insatiable and our drive to create them is central to our project. We are an award-winning, internationally published studio founded in 2011 by Alexander Josephson and Pooya Baktash.

image : Jonathan Friedman

Grotto Sauna Toronto Building images / information from Partisans

Partisans Address: street, 1139 College St, Toronto, ON M6H 1B5, Canada
Phone: +1 647-865-1982

Location:Toronto, Canada

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Grotto Sauna Toronto Building Building

Website: Partisans