It might sound a bit like a Bohemian fairy tale, but recently the residents of Liberec in the Czech Republic awoke to find a brand new sauna sitting in the middle of a local reservoir. This totally unsolicited project was the result of young Czech practice Mjölk Architekti proving a point: “We did a Pecha Kucha lecture in Prague, and we were thinking, ‘What do we say to people?'” laughs Mjölk principal Pavel Nalezeny. “We made a deal with ourselves. We told people at the lecture, ‘This is our plan: we’re going to build something tonight. Come and see if we can do it or not!'”
In the middle of the reservoir sits a small concrete island that was once used as a diving platform. On this site, Mjölk chose to build a sauna, not only for its simplicity, but also for its useful proximity to cold water, and the fact that it could be donated for public use. “We got back from Prague at 11 o’clock and just started to build it up,” says Nalezeny. “Then at 12 o’clock the policemen came …”
Surely they kicked up a fuss? “They were happy with our idea!” exclaims Nalezeny. “They didn’t say, ‘You must not build that here’ – they were very happy that something was happening there.” The main structure was finished by dawn, and by midday the building was complete.
Rather than being regarded as a guerrilla stunt, the sauna has been received warmly, with local authorities agreeing to maintain it as a public facility.
“I must say that people are using it – three or four people per day,” says Nalezeny. “If you want to use the sauna, you can just come to a cafe where the keys are, unlock the chain of the boat, and go out there. The only thing you spend money on is the wood.”