Lil Concrete Sauna

Center Point, Texas

The Texas Hill Country, with its endless blue skies, is filled with limestone hills, gnarled live oaks and junipers, native grasses, white-tailed deer, turkeys, and iconic Longhorn cattle. At the heart of it all, is a beautiful ranch with a modern family compound for spending long weekend and extended holidays. It is a retreat all about creating unique destinations around the ranch for outdoor adventure, activity, and recreation. The existing buildings embody a sophisticated take on country life where the boundaries between the inside the outside blur, and outdoor circulation is a critical component of remaining immersed in the country.

The new concrete sauna and plunge pool adds a health- and meditation-focused destination on the property. Set just a short stroll from the main house, they are accessed by a stone path that runs along the edge of a plateau. Their design, characterized by simplicity and minimalism, offers a sanctuary from the harsh Texas elements while extending a discreet connection to the surroundings.

The sauna is embedded into the edge of the hill hunkering in and connecting to the native landscape. The board formed concrete shell, vertically formed with the same dimensions as the interior wood paneling, provides a robust thermal mass which helps shoulder the intense sun and strong northerly winds. Passing through a steel portal, the sauna interior is revealed in stark contrast to its rugged exterior. A single aperture, composed of insulated and fully tempered glazing directly set to an unfinished western red cedar frame, is protected by a broad roof overhang marking the view toward the valley.

The interior is finished with vertical-grain western red cedar paneling sanded smooth to provide softness to surfaces, benches, and backrests—enhancing the space’s crisp texture and character. The primary electric heating element is supported on a dressed block of black granite as a modern interpretation of the sauna’s integration into the rocky environment.

The sauna embraces the timeless traditions of Scandinavian saunas and is built for the variable weather in Texas and meant to last generations. Given the atypical interior environment requiring a very hot, dry space (180 degrees F), the concrete structural shell provides a thermal mass and dampening of heat transfer through exterior walls that other traditional framing materials do not.