Tokyo-based studio Schemata Architects gives new life to a sentō, maintaining its original function of socialization and inserting new areas such as a sauna and a beer bar.
Named Koganeyu after the after the famous Koganeyu Onsen baths in Sapporo, the project involved refurbishing a public bathhouse that was originally built in 1985.
Japanese public bathhouses have been a long-time favorite communal gathering place where people feel a sense of connection to their communities. Now that 95% of households in Japan own private bathrooms, many sento have been forced to close due to a shrinking customer base, even though there are a certain number of long-time fans. In such a situation, Koganeyu boldly decided to renovate the existing bathhouse and ventured into a new era, and Schemata Architects were commissioned to undertake the renovation.
The space housing the main pools is symmetrically divided into female and male areas by a 2.25 m high wall open at the end, just like in traditional sentō, where this feature was used to communicate from one side to the other. The area in question includes pools with different waters, from hot to medicated, while a small pool with cold water is located near the sauna and is connected to the outside.
"We think this culture is really important and want to keep also for the next generation, so we thought that a new sento has to have other functions that make people today want to go often."