Stanley Park’s long-abandoned polar bear enclosure could become a Nordic sauna

New life for bear enclosure?

Want to go for a swim in Stanley Park's polar bear enclosure?

It's been animal-free since 1997, but one Vancouver architectural firm has proposed a unique use for the long-vacant space: A Nordic-style sauna.

Tony Osborn Architecture and Design (TOAD) has launched the idea with renderings, drawings, and a full website.

“Our team has been fascinated by this modern ruin for years now. We really wanted to find a way for visitors to Stanley Park to reoccupy this abandoned site without erasing its complicated history” says the firm's owner, Tony Osborn, in a press release.

The enclosure was part of the Vancouver Zoo; while the zoo's history started around 1888, the concrete habitat for the world's largest land predator was built in 1962. In 1997 the zoo came to an end when its last resident, Tuk the polar bear died.

While there have been a variety of ideas for the empty enclosure over the years, including a salmon hatchery, nothing has come to fruition.

TOAD created the proposal unsolicited but says the time is right for such a sauna, as it's a growing trend. In Victoria, HAVN, a floating spa with similar facilities, has just arrived in the inner harbour. And TOAD points to the Scandinave Spa in Whistler and Circle Wellness in Vancouver as other examples.

"Borrowing from various sauna cultures around the world, this complex would become a public place for people to congregate, socialize and rest; especially in the wet winter months when social interaction is in such short supply," states the proposal's website.

At the same time, the Vancouver parks board recently passed a motion telling staff to "think big" when it comes to revenue generation in the city's parks.

“We’re hoping Vancouverites are excited about this idea. I mean, going to Stanley Park on a rainy winter afternoon for a relaxing soak surrounded by old cedars... It would be incredible," says TOAD's Egor Revenko in the release. "We need more facilities like this, because we have the perfect climate for them.”


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