Agency in the Sauna

The Architectural Monument in the Era of the Anthropocene


  • Per-Johan Dahl



Anthropocene, Architectural Monument, Agency, Building Type, Waterfront Development


This article takes the public sauna at Frihamnen, the post-industrial harbor site in Gothenburg, Sweden, as an object of study in order to discuss the architectural monument in the era of the Anthropocene. Designed as a temporary prototype in 2014 by the Berlin based architecture office raumlabor, the building was recently granted monument status by the Gothenburg City Council. This article argues that, in order to respond to the environmental anxiety in current discourse, a new analogy for monument is needed. Building on scholarship from Alois Riegl and Anthony Vidler, the article proposes a theoretical position on the analogy for monument via a critique on the absence of contingency in abstract planning process. The standpoint supports an analysis of the architecture of the public sauna, which identifies several aspects of agency. Deducing intersections between agency and representation, the article demonstrates that the public sauna visualizes prospect for spatial design in the context of ecological degradation.