The concept behind a backwood cabin is to create a place for people to lose oneself and connect with nature. Traditionally, such cabins served as a resting place for its occupants, a backdrop to the primary focus of the surrounding. Can a building contribute more to this experience? How can architecture provide the setting to enhance the awareness of the surrounding while not distancing itself from nature?
Our design stems from the roots of architecture; building as shelter. Identifying the approach to the building site, the design imagines the occupant of the cabin as travelling through the site and onward into the surrounding. The cabin is therefore conceived of as a linear entity. Shelter is provided over the main axis travelling through the site, with both ends of the cabin openable to allow passage directly through the cabin and emphasize the connection to the surrounding. The design of the cabin is deliberately simple to blend in with the natural surroundings.
While occupants can interact with the surrounding within the cabin itself by simply stepping out into the forest, the building also carefully frames the surrounding to bring the surrounding into the interior. Conceived of as a working and sleeping space, each frames the natural surrounding differently in suiting their function. The working space invites nature in through large windows on either ends of the cabin, bringing the picturesque setting into the interior. For the sleeping space, to create a more serene environment, the windows are placed on the roof, thus framing the branches of the surrounding trees against a backdrop of the night sky. By shutting out the surrounding and focusing attention on the sky, the building blurs the lines between people and nature even at night.
To make efficient use of the small building footprint, the building is designed to transform internally for different usages. Swinging partitions allow the building to adapt for different configurations, creating a working space and a living space that could suit the needs of each occupant. As the cabin can be configured for programmatically, it could also conserve energy usage by minimising the area required for heating when certain parts of the cabin are not in use.
In the centre of the cabin is the woodstove, which acts as the central element of the design. By placing the woodstove in the centre, it maximises the energy efficiency of the stove when used for heating purposes. The woodstove also acts as a social centre to the building, continuing the tradition of the fire as a focus for social gatherings in traditional vernacular culture.
The construction of the cabin is made of a simple wooden frame with pine sidings. The choice of material is a reflection of the location of the cabin, making use of local materials for construction. This localisation of materials also makes it easier to maintain the building, creating a building that is very much adapted to the surrounding in which it sits.
TEAM: Kenneth Ip
PROGRAMME: Woodland cabin for research and naturally engaging recreation in a sustainable environment
COMPLETION DATE: 2014