Project DescriptionCategory: Live
Located on a 90-acre Hudson Valley estate among 19th century barns and a 1940s-era grand house, this modest spa designed by New York–based Andre Tchelistcheff Architects transforms an unused area into a pleasure ground. Housed in a minimalist rectangular box hidden by an existing retaining wall, the sauna replaces an old pool shed, and captures views of the nearby river and Catskill Mountains.
The 337-square-foot space is modeled on traditional Finnish saunas, with a cedar-clad interior heated by a wood-burning stove beneath an earthen roof planted with local wild grasses. An ipe rainscreen wraps the building, which is trimmed with unlacquered bronze at the overhang and window casings. A sunken entrance courtyard—which doubles as an outdoor shower—is paved in bluestone that was harvested on site. Inside, cedar slats form the benches and floor deck. Tongue-and-groove planks wrap around the interior walls and overhead, and two large windows frame the riverfront views. Soapstone floor slabs in the changing rooms double as heat shields around the electric and wood-burning stoves.
Jurors admired the sauna’s unpretentious residential scale, noting how it eschews the luxury of oversized houses, “with all of their teak accents and hardwood floors and whatnot,” Sheila Kennedy said. “It achieves its luxury in a space that is reduced to its minimum and integrated.” She complimented the way the designers, using a very reduced palette, took everything they had at their disposal—for example, the drip edge above the windows—and clearly diagrammed where the material would be used. “It’s extremely integrated,” she said. Added juror Cathy Lang Ho: “It’s like a little jewel.” — Vernon Mays