Review: Timber crafted bar and sauna by Partisans

By Penny Craswell

Founded in 2011, Partisans is an architecture studio run by Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash and Jonathan Friedman in Toronto, Canada. Two recent projects use innovative digital technologies to create beautiful interiors in wood: Bar Raval and Grotto Sauna.

Bar Raval, bar at night. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Bar Raval, bar at night. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

The brief from Bar Raval’s clients Canadian chef Grant van Gameren and mixologists Mike Webster and Robin Goodfellow, was to create an enduring institution that is also an “art piece”. Partisans developed a highly detailed digital model of the space and then enlisted the help of fabricators MCM and software engineers Mastercam to create prefabricated components, crafted in sinuous lines. Over 9km of engravings on 75 panels of wood created the final bar interior. 

Bar Raval, day view. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Bar Raval, day view. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

Inspired by Art Nouveau, the bar’s design invites patrons and staff to lean into its curves and feel the texture of its wood. “Bar Raval was an opportunity for us to use advanced digital methods to reinterpret—not replicate—classical Art Nouveau tropes for the 21st century,” says PARTISANS co­founder Alex Josephson.

Bar Raval, detail of timber curves. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Bar Raval, detail of timber curves. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

 

Chef van Gameren could not be more pleased with the result: “Working with Pooya, Alex, and the rest of their team was inspiring. From the early conceptual planning all the way through to the final stages of construction, they pushed us to envision beyond what we imagined possible. And as our vision grew, their dedication, honesty, and commitment to actualizing every minute detail surpassed all our expectations.”

Grotto Sauna interior. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Grotto Sauna interior. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

This sculpted work is the second such work created by Partisans following a sauna perched in a remote location in Georgian Bay, Ontario. Here, a simple, boxed exterior built from charred cedar prepared using the traditional Japanese Shou Sugi Ban method is contrasted with a voluptuous interior, emulating the curves of the rocks outside.

Grotto Sauna exterior. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Grotto Sauna exterior. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

 

Again, Partisans created a detailed 3D model of the site using Rhino, allowing preliminary digital designs and also prototypes to be built. The final panels were sent to the fabricator as digital files before being milled and installed in situ. The result is an unassuming exterior that shields the intimacy and luxurious nature of the interiors from the world.

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