Ever walked past the unused polar bear enclosure at Stanley Park and thought about what mind end up there one day? Well, Vancouver-based architecture firm TOAD (Tony Osborn Architecture + Design, Inc.) has quite a unique idea when it comes to utilizing the space. In a recent proposal, the firm suggests turning the area into a Nordic-style sauna and spa, borrowing from sauna cultures around the world to create a public space for people to socialize and rest.

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

Polar Bear Sauna

Prior to its 26-year vacancy, the enclosure was home to the polar bears of the now-closed Vancouver Zoo. This idea would bring to life the possibility of swimming and cold plunging in the very same spot that the bears once did – hence the proposal’s name, Polar Bear Sauna.

In a city where “health and wellness” is basically its middle name, we could definitely see this idea taking root. Although the first step in the process would be getting the Vancouver Park Board onboard – no pun intended.

In an email to Curiocity, Tony Osborn explains that the proposal has been sent to each of the Park Board Commissioners. And while there’s no news yet, Board Chair Commissioner Jensen told the media he liked the idea.

“While the Park Board is focused on improving and funding much-needed community facilities and assets, it’s always interesting to see unique proposals like this one that might prompt some out-of-the-box thinking,” the Park Board shared in an email with Curiocity.

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Next steps

As for general consensus from the public, Tony Osborn tells Curiocity that the response has been great so far.

“There seems to be an overwhelming excitement about the idea and indications that folks are frustrated this site has sat vacant for so long. The media attention has also resulted in inquiries from multiple parties who are interested in making the idea a reality.”

What’s more, TOAD has already started working with a few of these interested parties on the next steps – which includes creating a “genuine development proposal” for the Park Board to consider.

“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. We need more facilities like this, because we have the perfect climate for them” said Egor Revenko of TOAD.

And there you have it, Vancouver. We’re sure this won’t be the last we hear about the Polar Bear Sauna at Stanley Park – so stay tuned for future updates!