Each year for the past decade, the UK-Based Architectural Association holds an intensive Design + Make program where students construct experimental architecture on a 1:1 scale at the school's 270 acre Hooke Park campus in Dorset, England (a program very similar to the one profiled in Shelter's 'Studio in the Woods'). Focused on exploring the intersection of digital and hand fabrication, the program assigns each new team a prompt and they set to work, designing and building a structure to add to the growing campus of sculptural cabins.
In 2020, a newly assembled crew of students produced the Woodland Cabin, a 270 sq ft cabin built both by a robotic arm and human hands for a structure that seamlessly blends whimsy and minimalism. And although the cabin functions more as a product of architectural research, consider this our official application to rent this baby for a long weekend to come.
Briefed to create “an informal domestic space that could be relocated if needed,” designers naturally turned to elements of prefab construction. Internally, the bulk of the structure is held up by four felled trees that rest on pre-existing concrete bases, while the external envelope is made up of four pre-assembled walls and a wooden floor.
Similar to HANNAH's Ashen Cabin technology, a robotic arm was used to cut notches along the organic treek trunk forms to support the exterior walls. Combined with joints along the seams of the walls and floor, the whole structure locks together. Very Lincoln Log cabin 2.0, if you will.
“Contrasting ideas” drove much of the design. Besides the natural lines of the tree columns vs the rigid prefab structure, the interior is both plain and playful—with a sparse collection of chunky, handmade furniture and a collection of windows of various sizes and locations.
Above, a net stretches between the four structural tree trunks, and the furniture is placed as stepping stones to its access-instead of stairs, inhabitants are encouraged to climb up the logs to the perch, where they can gaze out of a skylight.
Inventive and playful, the Woodland Cabin explores collaborative design between the worlds of humans, machines, and nature-and although the moral implications of felling trees in order to build an experimental structure are somewhat murky, the three need to come into balance to help course correct the state of our planet, so perhaps it’s worth it.
Either way, the Woodland Cabin makes you think. And want to climb trees.