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Paula Smolka - "Interior design of a sauna for wheelchair users".

17 of November '23
Technical data
Type: undergraduate thesis
Year of defense: 2023
Name: "Design of the interior of the sauna for wheelchair users".
Author: Paula Smolka
University: Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, faculty: Design.
Promoter: Dr. Andrzej Klisz

Work submitted for the competition
"Best Diploma of Interiors 2022/2024".

The aim of the project is to develop a sauna interior that allows people in a wheelchair to use the sauna independently, without the help of third parties. I address the project mainly to people in a wheelchair set in motion manually, especially active people, athletes, due to the special health-promoting properties of the sauna just for this group (such as accelerating the process of post-workout recovery). The project can be used by everyone, regardless of gender and disability, making it universal.

Projekt wnętrza sauny dla osób poruszających się na wózku inwalidzkim

Interior design of the sauna for wheelchair users

© Paula Smolka

The designed system of sauna equipment allows the sauna to be used entirely by wheelchair users, starting with a prepared place to transfer from the wheelchair and leave it in the vestibule, through a properly equipped and accessible from a seated position door to the heated area, and then the provided modules of benches and platforms that allow convenient movement and change of levels of sauna use. The modular layout of the interior allows both the adaptation of saunas to existing rooms, as well as the implementation in independent free-standing objects.

© Paula Smolka

The vestibule has been dimensioned to take into account the area for free maneuvering of a wheelchair (150×150 cm). It contains benches that a person in a wheelchair transfers to in order to then enter the heated section. The wheelchair is left in front of the entrance, so after finishing sauntering in the same way, he can transfer to the wheelchair and leave the facility. A place for towels has also been provided in this section. The hooks are attached at two heights, making it accessible to both the able-bodied person and the wheelchair user. The vestibule can be built-in or open.

Sposób poruszania się w saunie

the way to move in the sauna

© Paula Smolka

The sauna room has an electric stove and a modular bench system designed to allow a person with disabilities to change the height. The facility should also have a summoning alarm system. The dimensions of the sauna room may vary depending on the size of the available space, but the minimum dimensions are determined by modules arranged in a way that allows a person with disabilities to change the height.

Przekrój i rodzaje modułów

cross-section and types of modules

© Paula Smolka

The seats are ultimately to be made of fir planks. Their edges are chamfered and rounded. The seats are based on the module base, their height is increased gradually—by one board height (80 mm) or by twice the board height (160 mm). Module A and B function as a footrest, while the rest of the seats. Gradually increasing the height of the seats allows a person with disabilities to move to higher levels of the sauna. The first seats were placed directly in front of the entrance, in the width of the door, to allow easy access to the handle and thus to open and close the door. By placing the benches in front of the sauna entrance, the user can move directly into the interior.

Zmiana wysokości siedzenia

changing the seat height

© Paula Smolka

The room has been fitted with sliding, double-leaf doors made of 8mm-thick tempered glass. They are fixed in aluminum rails built into the floor and ceiling of the sauna. Their dimensions may vary depending on the size of the room in which the sauna will be located, but the first leaf must always end at the first seat to give the user the opportunity to pass into the interior. The doors are sized to allow free passage for all people, regardless of disability.

Budowa klamki

handle design

© Paula Smolka

An important element of the design is the door handle. It has been designed to allow a user with disabilities to easily open the door, whether from a sitting position or a non-disabled user from a standing position. Made of beech wood, it has wooden elbows on the bends, and is reinforced on the inside with a steel bar.

Możliwe rodzaje saun

possible types of saunas

© Paula Smolka

Thanks to its modular design, the sauna can be used in various locations, both inside existing buildings, such as public saunas, recreation and sports centers, as well as outdoor, garden saunas. A mobile shipping container can also be an additional location. As part of the project, I determined the minimum dimensions of the sauna space and vestibule for different locations.


Illustrations: © Author

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