Tight deadlines, public presentations, keeping up with countless clients, consultants, and contractors … as an architect, one can get pretty burnt out during the heat of summer — I for one could do with taking off into the wilderness every once in a while! Of course, when it comes down to it I’m still a sucker for great architecture, even in the most remote of locations, so these 10 retreats are the kinds of places that I’d love to unwind.
No doubt I’ve missed a few gems, so if you have any hideaways you feel should have made the list, make it known in the comments section below.
Image via Contemporist
False Bay Writer’s Cabin by Olson Kundig Architects
Oslon Kundig Architects – get used to this name, because you’ll be seeing more of it during the course of this article. Why? Because Tom Kundig is the undisputed king of cabins in the woods. His firm’s expertise combine refined, modern detailing with rugged, reclaimed materials to spectacular effect, and the writer’s cabin at False Bay on San Juan Island is a perfect example. The timber deck on three sides folds up using one of Kundig’s famed lo-tech mechanisms, allowing the cabin to be secured when not in use – and adding a playful aspect to this secluded glass box.
Enormous boulders are usually viewed as a major site constraint by your average architect – but the work of Uhlik Architekti is far from average. Their jaunty cabin rests gently upon a stone, with stepped seating built into a raised portion to utilize the structure’s idiosyncratic internal geometry. Situated deep in a Bohemian wood, the cabin’s external walls are clad with charred timber to create a protective layer, and shutters conceal the glazing when not in use – this is architecture as object, perfected.
Situated in Graubünden, Switzerland, Zumthor’s acclaimed spa resort is tucked away in the Alps, allowing for immense relaxation and an architectural geek-out session to boot. More akin to a piece of archaeology than a work of contemporary architecture, the baths form a cave-like structure hewn directly from the mountain, becoming one with the surrounding land — Vals has that rare quality of timelessness, acquired the moment it was created.
In Hjerkinn, Norway, Snøhetta showed how parametrics can be utilized without compromising on texture, warmth, and a building's incredible connection with the surrounding landscape. The raw steel frame protects wildlife observers from the elements, while the sculpted timber seating was formed using a combination of traditional building techniques and cutting-edge 3D modeling. Truly beautiful in its simplicity: a modern classic.
Last year, PAD Studio created this splendid wooden vessel for the artist Stephen Turner to spend a year cogitating on the River Beaulieu in Hampshire, England. One should imagine architects would get a kick out of this retreat too though, as the timber engineering is a delight to behold – the construction details took inspiration from techniques used over centuries of British boat-building.
Olson Kundig Architects return to this list with one of their most well-known projects – the Rolling Huts of Mazama in Washington State appear like a herd of animals in the long grass, allowing for simple cabin living in both summer and winter. As he often does, Tom Kundig adopted a modern form (a plethora of I-beams and a cantilevered roof that even Mies Van Der Rohe might be proud of), but the materials used have a muted, textured patina that allows each cabin to blend into the surrounding landscape.
Image via Home Dsgn
Found in Harads, about 50 kilometers outside of the city of Lulea in northern Sweden, Treehotel is composed of five individually designed "tree rooms," each of which was created in collaboration with leading Scandinavian architects.
Rooms include "The UFO," resembling a flyer-saucer caught in the trees, "The Bird’s Nest," a veritable explosion of twigs, and "The Mirrorcube," which reflects the surrounding landscape in its elevations so perfectly that it appears virtually invisible … the perfect retreat for those who feel the need to disappear completely. Check out the project by Dass here.
What about escaping from the city … right in the center of the city? David Kohn Architects made this possible with the creation of their temporary art installation "A Room For London" – this temporary hotel for two took the whimsical form of a boat, stranded on the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall. The lightweight structure contrasts beautifully with the brutalist concrete building upon which it rests, and it’s even possible to do your best Titanic impression from the building’s prow – “I’m king of the wooorld!”
Strictly speaking, the final Olson Kundig creation to make my list is a full-on house rather than a retreat. However, its remote location and compact form means it shares many qualities of the aforementioned structures, with the addition of some beautifully crafted mechanics for good measure. Cranking the wheel in the center of the house allows the enormous, double-height Corten shutters to slide open, transforming a metal cube into a modernist gem – full-height glazing and cantilevered metal balconies allow inhabitants to connect with the stunning surrounding landscape.
Image via Adventure Journal
Treehouse Solling by Baumraum
Like the Treehotel structures of Sweden, Baumraum’s elevated structures provide a luxury, modernist take on the treehouse genre. Situated in Uslar, Germany, Treehouse Solling is elevated above a secluded pond on steel stilts, connected to the land via a timber gantry. Ok, so the firm takes liberties with the definition of “treehouse”, with each of their cabins being firmly anchored to the earth – but whatever you want to call it, the Treehouse Solling must be an ideal place to get away from it all.