Along Lake Huron in the Georgian Bay region of Canada near Toronto rests a series of private islands called Sans Souci. Literally translated as “no worries” from the French, the location offers secluded, serene waterfront views. So, when Partisans partners Pooya Baktash, Alexander Josephson and Jonathan Friedman were gathered to design a sauna along one of the precipices, the team knew it had to be a dwelling of both solace and surprise.


Called the Grotto, the 75 sq m sauna is almost unassuming from the outside. The minimal, angular structure is clad in burnt cedar and complements the prefab mid century modern design of the main house. Yet, just like any other secret grotto, one step inside blows all expectations away.

The sauna’s interior is an interplay of wood, horizons and curvaceous, amorphous design. Although incredibly modern, the shapes feel akin to natural forms sculpted by wind currents over centuries. The team also outfitted the structure with windows and skylights that allow sunlight or moonlight to carefully cascade in. This old world/new world juxtaposition is deliberate as the architects wanted the elements to help transport the human to another state of mind, even a different realm of experience.

grotto sauna grid vanichi style

This was made possible through cutting-edge 3D modelling and fabrication software. After extensive drafts and analysis, they found a design that would minimize impact to the earth below it while maximizing enjoyment of the natural landscape from inside. The result is an experimental space with recuperative experiential elements that merges almost seamlessly into its environment.