this scandinavian-inspired drying shed sauna nestles in the woodland of east sussex

this scandinavian-inspired drying shed sauna nestles in the woodland of east sussex

the drying shed sauna by built works


Designed and built by London and Lake District-based architecture practice Built Works, the Drying Shed Sauna is located on the edge of a rural, family-run farm in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex. The larch-clad sauna draws inspiration from the rituals of Scandinavian sauna culture to provide a meditative spa experience for guests staying in two Built Works-designed, eco-conscious cabins on the site, run by Architects Holiday, an online platform specializing in architect-designed holiday lets. The Drying Shed Sauna is within walking distance from the two cabins and can be reached via a series of woodland paths. Compact in size and tucked into a small clearing, the design uses the site’s sloping topography and dense woodland to prevent overlooking from cabins and the farm, allowing guests to immerse themselves into the landscape fully

the drying shed sauna 1
The Drying Shed Sauna draws inspiration from the rituals of Scandinavian sauna culture
all images courtesy Built Works 



minimal-impact design of red larch shingles & corrugated roof


A key part of Built Works’ mission is to integrate ecologically positive spaces sensitively into the landscape, and The Drying Shed Sauna is no different. The structure recalls agricultural drying sheds that are typical of this area historically – a light-hearted nod to the parallels between the uses of both structures. References to this typology have also been woven into the sauna’s design, from its simple geometric form to the distinct larch shingles that have been placed to create a regular, repeating panel pattern. Intricate detailing features at each corner, in a contemporary take on the traditional cladding found on drying sheds, where overhanging panels would open and close to aid the drying process. These carefully crafted details emphasize the larch’s natural finish as a nod to the variations of texture found in nature and doubles as a storage solution for robes.

the drying shed sauna 2
set into a sloping woodland plot that can be reached on foot



Furthermore, the choice of red adds a subtle, updated twist to aid wayfinding yet still sits harmoniously within its setting – in particular, when hit with the dappled light of the surrounding tree canopies. With a focus on using sustainable and locally sourced materials where possible, the timber-framed sauna is insulated with a mixture of recycled plastic and sheep wool insulation, and above, a distinctive, raised corrugated roof offers guests shelter from the elements. To minimize impact on the mature, characterful woodland, while unlocking the site’s tranquil beauty thanks to a large, picture window, the sauna appears perched on stones salvaged from an old barn on the site, elevated above ground to reduce harm to surrounding habitats and features discrete root sensitive screw piles for additional stability.

the drying shed sauna 3
a simple geometric form, finished with larch shingles placed in a repeating panel pattern



scandinavian inspired interiors


Built Works clad the interior in alder timber paneling to match the surrounding alder trees, blurring the lines between inside and out. The off-grid sauna uses a traditional Narvi wood-burning stove with Finnish sauna stones for an authentic experience. This sits at the heart of the guest experience, as users are invited to light and tend to the fire themselves as they relax, unwind, and shape their rituals. The wood for fuel is sourced from the site and the neighboring woodland, while the sauna bench within was constructed using the trunk of a silver birch tree that had fallen in a storm. Splitting the trunk down the middle created a natural and organic form to counter the geometrical form of the sauna, further rooting the space in the site.

the drying shed sauna 4
the red finish aids wayfinding while a distinctive raised corrugated roof provides shelter



The Drying Shed Sauna experience also extends beyond the building itself, as Built Works have added a deck to a nearby wild swimming pond. As such, guests can now end their visit with a jump into fresh cold water, from a local spring. The completion of the project  marks the next step in Built Works and Architects Holiday’s ongoing collaboration and expansion on this unique site, which will see the addition of five new guest cabins introduced in Spring 2024 – each inspired by their specific location within the protected woodland. This project, manufactured through a live-build workshop, is the result of a 2023 collaborative summer program. 

the drying shed sauna 6
the sauna is perched on stones to reduce harm to existing wildlife habitats



the drying shed sauna 7
a large, picture window overlooks tranquil views of a neighbouring stream

the drying shed sauna 8
the interior is clad with alder panelling to match the surrounding landscape

the drying shed sauna 9
the bench was built by splitting the trunk of a fallen silver birch tree down the middle

the drying shed sauna 12
the timber-framed sauna features larch shingles and recycled plastic and sheep wool insulation




project info:


name: The Drying Shed Sauna

location: East Sussex, UK 
architect: Built

collaborator: Architects Holiday



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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