Circle-shaped Steam of Life Pavilion, co-designed by JKMM architects and Sauna on Fire collective, will be built in Burning Man festival to offer the sequenced sauna experience, as a deconstructed art installation.

Project Name: Steam of Life Pavilion
Architects: JKMM Architects
Year: 2019
Photographs: Hannu Rytky

Complete Architecture Package for Design Studios
Steam of Life Pavilion by JKMM Architects - Sheet1
© JKMM Architects

“Sauna” is the only Finnish word used in the English language and it is probably one of the most common comparisons used in Finland to describe desert hot conditions. In a land of 5,5 million inhabitants and over 3,2 million saunas, the Finns’ approach to the sauna is profoundly philosophical and strangely straightforward and day-to-day. Deeply rooted in Finnish society, the tradition of sauna stems from the Finnish people’s closeness to nature and the country’s forests and lakes and has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. Even today, the sauna is at centre stage of all important events in life. It symbolises camaraderie, solidarity and the collective social domain. In addition to these social aspects, the sauna is a place for bathing and detoxing as well as private spiritual purging and peaceful meditation. A place of both physical and spiritual metamorphosis.

Steam of Life Pavilion by JKMM Architects - Sheet2
© JKMM Architects

Marcus Kujala, Hannu Rytky, Päivi Aaltio and Samppa Lappalainen, three architects and the CEO of JKMM Architects will contribute to the unique participatory culture of Burning Man by joining the Sauna on Fire -collective, an interdisciplinery group of artists, thinkers, scholars and Burners with an ambition and curiosity for co-creation, volunteerism, positive spirit and inclusion of participants with diverse backgrounds; – by introducing the essence of Finnish mindscape in the physical form of a sauna pavilion at the Burning Man society in 2019.

Steam of Life Pavilion by JKMM Architects - Sheet3
© JKMM Architects

“Steam of Life”, the co-created timber pavilion, embodies the typical physical elements of a Finnish sauna. It is a human scale wooden building, minimalistic in its aesthetic and focused on embracing ambient natural light and shade, in response to what will be a major gathering within a hot desert . A passageway will guide visitors to circulate through the round shaped sauna pavilion. Stepping in from the harsh desert light, visitors enter a low-lit passage that leads to the steam room, the heart of a Finnish Sauna, with wooden benches and the “kiuas” stove. After enjoying a sauna, visitors will enter a softly-lit space opening onto the atrium yard in the middle of the pavilion. In the absence of a lake, sea or a pile of snow to dip into, the atrium yard offers a shaded oasis for cooling down and meditative relaxing.

Steam of Life Pavilion by JKMM Architects - Sheet4
© JKMM Architects

Just like saunas in Finland, Steam of Life -pavilion is about capturing the same ideal of a shared sense of humanity in a memorable and timeless way.

Complete Architecture Package for Students


JKMM Architects is a 100-strong group of architects and designers based in Helsinki, Finland. Founded twenty years ago on the back of a competition winning project for Turku City Library, the practice continues to work on major public buildings in Finland. The practice’s work is diverse ranging from housing to schools, libraries to concert halls, museums to hospitals.

Amos Rex, a new underground art museum in Helsinki city centre, was completed by JKMM in August 2018. Many of the projects by JKMM also involve working with existing buildings such as the extension of the Alvar Aalto designed Seinäjoki Library and more recently the Finlandia Prize winning restoration and reconfiguration of the interiors of Aalto’s library in Otaniemi.


The Sauna on Fire is a Helsinki based international platform for participatory culture and civic engagement. It is co-created by a voluntary team of diverse professional backgrounds. Previously, the team has realized co-created Burning Man projects such as The Cosmic Egg, Koulu The School, and Pike of Mana. The community is also connected to a team of academics from Aalto University, Helsinki, who are studying Burning Man culture via Burning Stories research project.


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

Write A Comment