Wallpaper highlights the partnership between the founders of Ancient Ritual and Whipsaw to bring the Arc Experiential Sauna to life. Included in their review is how the teams collaborated on the intention of the experience, fine product details, lighting, and sound design. The original article is written by Rosa Bertoli and published by Wallpaper on December 23, 2023.
Product Design and Experience Innovation Whipsaw have created the Arc Sauna, a new concept developed with wellness specialist Ancient Ritual to combine traditional elements of sauna culture, inspired by furniture design and with cutting-edge (but unobtrusive) technology for maximum relaxation.
'I like that sauna has a single purpose, which is to simply relax,' says Dan Harden, CEO, Founder and Principal Designer of Whipsaw Inc. 'When we relax deeply in a sauna, we feel reinvigorated, renewed, and even transformed. We emerge like a new person. This extraordinary body/mind transformation, that is achieved by the relatively simple means of heat and space, is sublime. It’s no wonder why it’s called “sauna culture”.
'As a cultural endeavor, it has it all - historical roots, community following, personal satisfaction, and design expression,' continues Harden. 'A sauna is an ideal experience design problem since it is a dynamic yet unhurried mix of physical and mental activity. Saunas also have a close relationship between the objects inside it like benches and heaters, and the surrounding architectural enclosure. As a design and cultural construct, it doesn’t get any better.'
The sauna's minimalist design, achieved in natural oak and Japanese hinoki cypress, integrates therapeutic infrared heat, soothing light, and high-fidelity surround sound to create a full relaxation experience. Arc is equipped with an AI software developed to transform users' biometric data into dimensional dynamic analytics for a uniquely tailored sauna experience.
'Technology can often be overbearing, and if not incorporated with care, it is unwelcome - especially in a sauna,'' continues Harden. 'We let the desired human experience drive all tech decisions. The lighting had to be magical, the sound natural and clear, the heat even, the controls instinctive, the chair comfy beyond expectation. The tech feels soft.'
The sauna chamber features a reclining chair and compact, fold-down guest seat. Warmth is achieved via infrared emitters and a ceiling heater, while thick wall insulation isolates the room from all heat and sound. Every element was considered to let the cabin's aesthetic gently guide users towards a fully immersive experience. 'Design is a language, and with it you can communicate anything you want,' explains Harden. 'In this case, we made every design element speak to relaxation. The gently curved exterior roofline, abundant use of rich wood grain, and an easy door handle with a wisp of light welcome you to the concept. Upon entering, the lit horizon line surprises you with how much bigger it feels inside than what you expected, which instantly relaxes you.'
Meanwhile, the lighting experience inside the sauna was developed in collaboration with Matthew Schreiber, artist James Turrell’s lighting engineer, who contributed to the sophisticates LED lighting system creative immersive lightscapes that were inspired by nature’s sunsets and aurora skies.
'It soon became apparent to us that some light trickery was needed to prevent the sauna from feeling claustrophobic,' explains Harden. 'We needed to do more with light than just illuminate the space, and a general overhead light wasn’t going to cut it. Matthew and his team experimented with many lighting effects inside our sauna models, primarily light curtain projection techniques. They explored every light variable including intensity, color, direction, form and focus. The result is a magical shimmering effect like the northern lights, which was very appropriate considering most saunas are in Finland!'
Ancient Ritual is currently taking reservations for the Arc Sauna, with shipping beginning from Summer 2024.