Superb cabins and huts around the world
(Image credit: Cristobel Palma / Cabin Fever, Gestalten)
From a Nordic pine cabin to a jewel treehouse, the homecoming refuge is booming. Why is the remote booth so perfect right now, asks Clare Dowdy.
What do rural cabins offer us that we can’t get at home? They are smaller than many permanent dwellings and are likely to be more basic in their furnishings, fixtures and fittings. But these perceived drawbacks are part of what makes them so appealing. They present a break with normal life, allowing residents to access another way of being. “We all aspire to a ‘third place’ (somewhere that is neither our workplace nor our home) that allows us to be a different person,” says Robert Klanten, editor and CEO of Gestalten, citing the kaffeehaus – or coffee shop – in the 1920s; the local bar in the 1960s; the club in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, he believes, third place is a cabin. “We can relax and rejuvenate and possibly become a different person for a while or for good.”
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This sentiment holds true for many people around the world who design, build, visit, or just ogle booths on the page and on screen. Gestalten’s latest book on the subject, Cabin Fever, co-edited by Klanten with Elli Stuhler, shows that from Australia to Iceland, fever is still high.
A new book, Cabin Fever, features some of the most beautifully designed cabins and lodges around the world (Photo credit: Cabin Fever, Gestalten)
There’s something to salivate about in the latest generation of jewel and basic cabins. These designers have made simplicity an art form, making an austere, minimalist lifestyle feel like an aspiration. Is it because of the effort and love that clearly went into creating more with less?
“Getting back to basics with design is a healthy reminder that we actually need very little,” writes Stephanie Wade in the book. Certainly, the views of these structures suggest that all that is needed is a pair of walking boots or a bathing suit.
However, such a lifestyle can be deceptive. For many of us, surviving on the bare minimum takes effort and forethought. “Spending time in remote places… requires you to pack a few extra logistical things,” Wade adds.
The La Loica and La Tagua cabins (by Croxatto and Opazo Arquitectos) are perched above an otherworldly Pacific coast in Chile; while Malek Alqadi’s Folly Cabins are found in the Southern California desert. Here, “the thick walls and sloping roofs of the isolated cabins make the location bearable all year round”, explains the architect. Meanwhile, the treehouses of Sigurd Larsen in Denmark can withstand extreme weather conditions thanks to their insulation and thick glass walls.
Sigurd Larsen’s treehouses in Denmark stand up to the elements with their thick insulation and glass (Courtesy Sigurd Larsen / Cabin Fever, Gestalten)
But getting close to the elements in a remote location is also one of the cabin’s main draws. “Booths allow you to be a guest in an impossible place, at least for a while,” says Klanten.
Mikko Jakonen from Studio Puisto in Helsinki echoes this: “Being in a safe place surrounded by wild nature really causes something primitive in us. It takes away our daily worries.
Even with modern building techniques, there is an appetite among architects to make the most of local materials. The Indigo Hut in the Netherlands by Woonpioniers is lined with locally sourced timber inside and out – respectively in spruce and black stained larch. And TYIN Tegnestue’s Aure Norway boathouse is clad in Norwegian pine.
Others use “honest” materials like glass, steel and concrete. The facades of Casa Etérea in Mexico (by Prashant Ashoka San Miguel de Allende) and Synvillan in Sweden (by Sandellsandberg Arkitekter) are made of polished steel which reflects the surrounding nature. And Sigurd Larsen is hoping that the untreated wood and metal facades of his Danish tree-top cabins will become covered in moss.
The sloping roof and thick walls of this desert cabin make it livable all year round (Photo credit: Sam Frost / Cabin Fever, Gestalten)
This idea of working with nature is also on display near Iceland’s lava formations, volcanoes and hot springs. Studio Heima’s Aska hut has a charred wood facade “echoing the slabs of bare rock sticking out under the snow,” Klanten writes, while its roof, “planted with native vegetation for insulation, integrates it into its beautifully dark environment ”.
Meanwhile, at many sites, huge glass panes bring that uninterrupted view even closer – the reason you made the trip, most likely. Like many cabins in the book, Studio Puisto’s Kivijärvi Resort in Finland has a fully glazed wall.
Architecturally, Klanten noticed a trend for “more vertical two-story cabins (kitchen below, bed with view above)”. Many of these are a modern take on the traditional A-frame structure. Small sleeping areas are nestled under the roofs of Hytte Imingfjell in Norway by Arkitektværelset Imingfjell, On Mountain Hut in Switzerland by On, The Folly in California and La Loica and La Tagua in Chile.
The hut culture has deep roots in Europe – from the Scottish Highlands to the Alpine and Nordic regions, where the first hut structures began to appear as early as 3500 BC. And around the world, the dominant interior aesthetic borrows from the Nordic countries.
“It’s obvious that Scandinavian design has had a huge influence around the world,” says Klanten. However, he notes that the cabins in other places like Latin America and Australia “are not pure imitations of a Nordic design philosophy, but eager to inject, reflect and celebrate the aesthetic. and local traditions ”.
A modern take on the traditional A-frame is the increasingly popular, two-story vertical cabin. (Cristobal Palma / Cabin Fever, Gestalten)
Hence the more raw rustic charm of Cabanas no Rio in Portugal and the polished concrete interior walls of Casa Etérea in Mexico. Interestingly, the one that goes against the trend of light wood interiors is actually Sweden. Sandellsandberg Arkitekter painted the ceilings at Synvillan in ice cream tones.
Whether the style is purely Nordic or vernacular minimalist, these architects have outdone themselves in space planning and storage. A bunk bed with drawers underneath is hidden behind louvered folding doors in JRKVC’s AnuAzu cabin in Slovakia. And in Aure Boathouse, the space under the bed is stacked with logs.
While the typical cabin location is as far away as modern construction methods allow, there is a counter trend for those that are close to home. The book highlights “a new appreciation for regional getaways”. As Klanten says, during the pandemic people began to yearn to escape somewhere, “maybe a few hours away without crossing a border – a place to spend the weekend without seeing anyone who doesn’t. was neither family nor friends ”.
The charm of the return to basics of isolated cabins allows you to escape the complexity of city life (Credit: Cristobal Palma / Cabin Fever, Gestalten)
Whether these structures are off the beaten track or on the road, the typology of the cabins has allowed some architects to take the boat out. For the wow factor, there’s the tall, glazed Klein A45, inspired by the A-frame in the US, by international BIG starchitects. Or the conical mushroom in a Chinese pine forest by ZJJZ Atelier. TYIN Tegnestue’s Aure is inspired by a dilapidated boathouse that once stood here, hence the long adaptable facade, where entire sections of wall can be raised to open up to a wooden area .
In Norway, Spinn Arkitekter’s Varden Hiking Hut is neither sloping nor square. It’s a little egg-shaped hut on the rocky edge of a mountain, clad in an irregularly shaped five-sided honeycomb shell. “It could have been made by industrious insects and enlarged for human use,” suggests the book. In fact, it took state-of-the-art 3D printed models to test its construction before it was built. Huts are not only the place where visitors can play at living differently, but where architects can play at designing differently.
Cabin Fever: Enchanting Cabins, Shacks and Hideaways is published by Gestalten
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