All in the Details

Locally sourced materials and attention to unique features result in win for faculty and alumna

by Nicholas Nguyen • May 28, 2024

In early May, the Texas Society of Architects (TxA) announced the winners of its 2024 Design Awards. University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design adjunct faculty member Jesse Hager and his firm CONTENT Architecture won an award for their work on Sudor Sauna Studio in Houston. The team included fellow faculty member Kate LaRose and alumna Otilia Gonzalez (B.Arch. ’19).

The annual TxA Design Awards recognizes design excellence by Texas’ top architects, focusing on the quality of the built environment while highlighting the roles designers play in the community. This year’s jury, including Gordon Gill, FAIA; Roberto de Leon, FAIA; and Celia Esther Arredondo Zambrano, considered over 250 entries and recognized 15 projects for their exemplary features.

The 2022 TxA Design Awards recognized Hager’s firm for its work on the Allston Residence, where collaboration with the homeowners resulted in a lauded design tailored to the family’s specific needs. For the Sudor Sauna Studio project, CONTENT worked with the business’s co-founder and CEO, Katherine Garcia.

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Interior design, Building, Property, Wood, Lighting, Flooring, Architecture, Hall, Floor, House
Interior design, Wood stain, Building, Hall, Flooring, Floor, House, Hardwood

above: Sudor's Exterior, Lobby, and interior curved path (Photos by Cesar Bejar)

“Katherine knew from the beginning that in starting her new business, the physical space of her sauna studio would play a big role in the brand experience,” explained Hager. “Seeking out CONTENT's design sensibilities and previous work in the wellness space, the creative discussions with Katherine shaped the space from early on.”

The team worked to create a unique user experience for the interiors, incorporating a circular path in the schematic design and organizing the plan. Thanks to its curved form, the path provides a unique, special sense of individual privacy. The section also considered guests’ mindfulness—the circular path is ramped, leading them from the lobby's hard stone floors to the softwood floors of the sauna rooms.

CONTENT paid particular consideration to the materials critical in shaping the rich interiors. Wherever possible, they sourced natural local and regional materials. Hager added, “Locally sourced Cypress wraps the walls of the exterior wall of the ramp, hiding the sauna room doors and creating a seamless surface.”

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Interior design, Wood, Flooring, Wall
Interior design, Wood, Floor, Flooring

above:.Images of the individual sauna rooms and the curved path with lockers (Photos by Cesar Bejar)

Adding to the natural feel of the space, the ceilings painted in black resemble a night sky with a constellation of lights placed overhead. The feeling of tranquility permeates the guests’ journey through the space thanks to glowing strip lights concealed at the base of the walkway and at the top of the walls to create a walkway seeming to float.

The focus on creating a seamless feeling also extended to how the designers handled the standalone, prefabricated sauna units. The individual rooms include ceiling treatments and custom millwork to make the saunas feel built into the space. In addition to handling the sauna units, the team also created custom cold plunge tubs, from the curved tile surfaces to the equipment systems.

The jury for the TxA Design Awards saw the exceptional use of materials and attention to detail in the finished space. Hager also credits the design’s success to the team’s collaboration with Garcia. Her fresh ideas centered around the guest experience pushed them to come up with a unique design that ultimately added to the business’s success.

“At the end of the day, it was really Katherine’s trust in us that allowed us to get the project resolved. To see this work recognized by TxA is truly rewarding,” Hager said. “It takes an incredible amount of effort from many parties to make a project like this happen. This is a result of many driven and caring individuals and their belief and support of the design.”

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This story was first published in the spring 2024 issue of DIMENSION Magazine. Read the magazine.


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