Text description provided by the architects. KOTO [KO-TO] The traditional Finnish word for ‘cosy at home’ is made up of the design trio, Belfast based architect Theo Dales and husband and wife design duo Johnathon Little and Zoe Little. Having spent the past decade in Oslo where Johnathon previously worked for Snohetta, Johnathon and Zoe wanted to acknowledge, not only the enduring minimal aesthetics of Scandinavian design they became attached to but the Nordic lifestyle and the value of a healthy work-life balance. ‘We are creating beautiful small buildings that allow people to connect with nature and embrace outdoor living.'
Our ambition has been to create a lifestyle brand that is centered around the Nordic concept Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv), an expression that translates to “open-air living”. Norwegian poet Ibsen described the term as the value of spending time in the remote outdoors for spiritual and mental wellbeing. KOTO is challenging how we think about buildings in the landscape from every angle, from construction to how they have used and the environmental impact at every step along the way. We have created an ‘off the shelf’ housing solution, that addresses the demands of our changing mindsets towards house buying.
‘They are a sculptural interpretation of the small buildings that you see across Europe, from Bothys to Alpine huts and Norwegian Hytte. These small pitched roof buildings are an integral part of the landscape and provide warmth, shelter and an opportunity to fully immerse in nature. That is the heart of the ethos at KOTO.' Partnering with manufacturers has brought an exceptional level of experience and craftsmanship to the finished product and builds on years of their development of low energy, timber frame buildings.
Koto’s modular concept allows for flexible living. 1, 2, 3 or 4-bed combinations with additional ‘add-ons’ including outdoor showers and saunas. Thinking about each living space as a separate design exercise has allowed us to create unique experiences in each space. Throughout the buildings, expansive concealed storage walls maximize floor space and maintain a clean aesthetic. Space is flooded by natural light, cozy nooks, and generous bespoke window seats, maximizing use of space whilst connecting the user to the outside world. Although working with a relatively small footprint, the tall diagonal ridge opens up the spaces dramatically.
Each bedroom is designed to feel like a private retreat within the landscape, key pieces of furniture all from Hay have been curated to create a calm, minimal environment. Occupants can enjoy flexible space, to sleep, to relax and to disconnect. Features include concealed storage walls and fold down beds. Even though each ‘pod’ boasts a large glazed facade, they can be orientated in such a fashion they will always remain private. Continuing the Nordic aesthetic, each cabin has a Morsoe wood burning stove and neutral interiors create calm and elegant spaces.
The interiors in the ensuite bathroom give a striking contrast. Dark colors and copper Lusso fixtures bring a feeling of ‘noir opulence’, enveloping and awakening all senses. The black outdoor shower and add-on sauna cabin all add to the ‘spa' experience. The collection of KOTO buildings within the landscape can be ‘added to (or taken from)', reconfigured to the needs of the client and the constraints of the site. They are designed to last a lifetime and can even be relocated to a totally different site years later.
We and our production partners have a ‘fabric-first’ approach to energy efficiency, providing long term low-energy performance with an emphasizes on low-toxicity, natural and sustainable materials. Because we use wood-based products for the majority of our construction, these materials sequester carbon within the fabric of the building such that we can deliver carbon negative construction. We strongly believe that the construction industry needs to pay careful attention, not just to reduce the energy consumption of new buildings but also, to the short term carbon impact that using carbon-intensive materials in the construction of new stock can have.