Today in Weird Buildings That Probably Shouldn’t Exist: Europe’s Rotating Solariums

Saturday August 17, 2019 Written by James

Sol G1

In the late 19th century, scientists figured out what common sense had been telling mammals ever since they’d crawled out of the primordial ooze: sunlight is good for you. Dr Jean Saidman, who ran the Institute of Actinology in Paris, decided to follow this theory through to its logical conclusion. If sunlight is good for you, he reasoned, then lots of sunlight must be really good for you.  

To test his hypothesis, in 1929 Saidman built what might be the weirdest building ever devised: a rotating medical solarium. The first one was constructed in Aix-les-Bains in the Savoy Alps, designed by architect Andre Farde. It featured a spiral staircase up to a horizontal metal wing, which rotated throughout the day, following the path of the sun. Inside the wing were glass cabins. Patients would lie on tilted beds, perpendicular to the light, beneath protective screens of nickel oxide, while Saidman used a system of lenses and mirrors to direct sunlight onto particular parts of the body.


Apparently Saidman used this method to treat everything from rickets to cancer (although he probably caused several new melanomas in the process). Unfortunately, only one rotating solarium still survives. The other two were destroyed in WWII. Just remember, kids, there’s nothing healthy about a tan. Or a rotating solarium.