Ground­breaker North­ern Swe­den lays a golden egg

Be­fore a min­ing town in north­ern Swe­den packs up its bags to leave, a golden sauna has been in­stalled to help with the emo­tional chal­lenges of say­ing good­bye

Azure - - DEPARTMENTS - TEXT BY DANIEL GOLLING ⁄ PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JEAN-BAP­TISTE BÉRANGER

GET­TING NAKED WITH STRANGERS within a con­fined room – and where the ideal tem­per­a­ture is 85ºc – might seem like an out-of-the-or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence, but in Swe­den, saunas are an in­te­gral part of life. Few, though, are as beau­ti­ful or as po­lit­i­cally fu­elled as the So­lar Egg. This pub­lic sauna has been built on the site of a new city near Kiruna, the coun­try’s north­ern­most out­post, 145 kilo­me­tres south of the Arc­tic Cir­cle. The rea­son for a golden egg? To pro­vide some 23,000 Kiruna res­i­dents with a place to meet be­fore they move, en masse, to this en­tirely new, built-from-scratch lo­ca­tion.

The orig­i­nal Kiruna is a min­ing town, and as the sup­plier of iron ore to 90 per cent of Europe, its boom­ing suc­cess now threat­ens the sta­bil­ity of the city’s foun­da­tions. Dig­ging has crept into the streets. In 2004, it be­came clear Kiruna would have to re­lo­cate. The new city, three kilo­me­tres away, has now been built, though the tran­si­tion of peo­ple and busi­nesses will likely con­tinue well into the 2020s. There are still numer­ous is­sues to sort out, including sell­ing off fam­ily homes that will even­tu­ally be de­mol­ished. In fact, the emo­tional stress of the en­deav­our is harder than the lo­gis­tics. Hence, So­lar Egg.

Com­mis­sioned by de­vel­oper Riks­byggen, the sauna pro­vides an in­for­mal place for cit­i­zens to meet and talk. Its de­sign is by Swedish artists Mats Bigert and Lars Bergström (of Bigert & Bergström), who cov­ered the egg in gold-plated steel pan­els that pow­er­fully re­flect the sur­round­ing snow-cov­ered land­scape.

”There are no so­cial mark­ers in a sauna,” says Bigert of the in­stal­la­tion. ”In a sauna, you don’t know who peo­ple are, but ev­ery­body talks to one an­other. I can re­mem­ber as a child lis­ten­ing to old men talk about pol­i­tics there.” To un­der­score the egg’s sym­bol­ism – the re­birth of a city – the artists kit­ted out the in­te­rior with an iron stove shaped like an anatom­i­cal heart, with one artery func­tion­ing as the chim­ney. The sauna’s womb-like in­te­rior, lined in as­pen wood, pro­vides an al­lur­ing in­cu­ba­tor in which to sweat away anx­i­eties, and an idyl­lic hub for con­ver­sa­tion. bigert­bergstrom.com

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