While the traditional image of the cabin is one of a rustic wooden home located far away from any trace of society, architects have been experimenting with these conventions alongside newer material and technological considerations to push the boundaries of the ‘cabin’ today. Whether it is by reimagining the aesthetics of the cabin, or by utilizing advanced fabrication techniques to modernize the rustic, or even by reconfiguring the log cabin for the city setting, architects and designers have utterly transformed traditional cabin architecture for a more contemporary existence. Below, we consider 10 innovative cabins that achieve this transformation through experiments with different materials and construction technologies. While each explore different strategies and functions, many share similarities in their use of prefabrication systems, in their dedication to sustainability, and in their close attention to and optimization of specific material properties.
This cabin located in Stuttgart combines traditional timber construction with advanced fabrication technologies, allowing for the creation of a highly precise vertical frame pattern on its walls. Essentially turning the conventional horizontal log cabin on its side, the vertical slits etched in this cabin’s walls serve as stress-relief cuts that improve both dimensional stability and insulation, merging the sustainability of wood with the achievements of advanced computational design. Photographs and diagrams demonstrate the precision realized by the combination of these materials and technologies.
Similarly, these homes designed for mass customization and production utilize special 3D software and prefabricated building systems to optimize time and cost without sacrificing design. Functioning as self-sufficient romantic retreats into nature, these houses can be personally customized by clients before being transported and constructed within two days. Once again, the traditional cabin retreat meets cutting edge technology to produce an unconventional design system.
This Greek cabin utilizes CAD technology for a different purpose, precisely situating the building within its natural environment. Not only were all building components pre-fabricated, but the plan of the structure is aligned to the cardinal points and to the nearby olive trees. The metallic walls, which are precisely rendered and perforated, mimic the shade of the olive trees and cast patterned shadows into the cabin as the sun travels over the course of the day. Departing from the strictly wooden materials of the previous examples, this cabin’s green metal walls still manage to replicate the natural feeling of the surrounding environment through color, pattern, and light.
This workshop for an architecture student is located not in nature, but on the top of an existing house, where it was constructed in only one month. Using entirely dry construction operations to accelerate the process, the designers utilized metal for the floor and dry pinewood for everything else, all of which were commercial standard. Particularly in its materials and construction methods, the design was an exercise in optimizing simplicity and possibility.
Another prefabricated design, these office modules can be made in 60 days and transported to any location with full furnishings and completely ready for use. The rectangular structure utilizes a Corten Steel frame filled with OSB Poplar wood, which is also insulated with recycled cotton. The furniture utilizes local wood and machine-sewn antique fabrics. These unique furnishings complement the highly mechanical and prefabricated nature of the rest of the design.
This fully off-the-grid sustainable housing unit is entirely prefabricated, scalable, and transportable, and can be quickly dismantled and moved to the most isolated locations. With a water purification system that collects rainwater and greywater, and a compost system that reuses dry toilet waste as fertilizer, the cabin does not need to connect to existing water systems and sewers and therefore avoids the environmental damage of pre-construction work. Energy is also provided by solar panels and a fuel cell, which power the lighting, a refrigerator, microwave, TV, and air conditioning. These technologies make Majamaja highly sustainable and entirely self-sufficient.
This prototype, which attempts to minimize its ecological footprint through the use of local materials and by prioritizing energy efficiency, is especially unique for its thermal insulation and energy capture strategies. The foundation of the house is made of cyclopean concrete footings and steel columns, while the structure is made of eucalyptus wood because of its high strength and low cost. The design utilizes the greenhouse effect to capture solar energy, which is trapped by the pumice stone in the frames and slabs, stabilizing the interior temperature and optimizing the thermal insulation and thermal inertia despite the high climatic variability of the area. Monitoring systems in the cabin maintain these steady temperatures.
This lodge in Bergen, Norway explores the material properties of wood to develop a unique formal language. The construction combines a spruce timber skeleton with thin Douglas fir board for the walls, which functions as the ‘breathable skin’ of the sauna room. Acknowledging the material tendency of wood to shrink and swell alongside fluctuations in humidity and temperature, the designers compensated with the mobility and flexibility of the component parts.
Designed by students and constructed in only 12 days, this scalable studio can be modified to multiple different sites and programs ranging from living to working to education. It utilizes a spruce stud and plywood superstructure, softwood footings, wood fiber insulation, hemp fiber bio-resin corrugated cladding sheets, and cast in situ Hempcrete. With these materials, the building is ‘effectively carbon negative,’ as it utilizes primarily carbon-capturing custom grown materials.
Finally, this unusual-looking copper-clad tower houses a timber and glass interior for one to two people. The copper sides can be opened up at the north, east, and west, forming wide verandah roofs that completely open the interior to the surrounding environment. When closed, the structure is not only completely private but also protected from bush fires. The multilayered walls and ventilated top and bottom also insulate the structure from high temperatures and cold winds.