To be in the natural world elicits many emotional responses such as wonder, calm or excitement. Tromping around the woods as a kid, I felt at home. I developed an instinctual urge to protect nature, conserving it as an important place. Theorist and architect Christian Norberg- Schulz believes that architecture has the power to "reveal the world as what it is." (from The Concept of Dwelling) Architecture can facilitate a meaningful relationship between an individual and a place. An experiential understanding of the Kennebecasis Valley served as a basis for this design informing the tectonic expression, materiality and building systems.
The proposed cabin is composed of three tectonic elements each reinforcing what one naturally feels in the woods: grounding, refuge and dreaming. A rock hearth grounds the building and connects all three levels. The seasonally protected pod is suspended in the trees for sleeping and refuge. Atop the pod in the tree canopy, is a deck with a place to look out and dream. A screen of reclaimed wooden slats envelopes the three elements echoing the verticality of surrounding white pines.
The materiality take cues from vernacular architecture. The proposed cabin fits in with the surrounding barns and wood framed homes by echoing the material palette. The hearth is composed of rocks from the surrounding river valley wrapped in a metal net. This gabion technique echoes how English settlers used found rocks to form the foundations of their homes. It is also less harmful to the environment than the alternative, concrete. Empty barns litter the countryside of rural New Brunswick as relics of past agricultural industry. Rather than letting these barns rot into the ground, they can be carefully dismantled and their pieces used in the construction buildings such as one proposed in this competition.
Historically, the wigwam has been an important building type due to its ease of construction, high performance and structural stability. Therefore, the wigwam serves as a basis to determine the wall construction, heating/cooling and structural system of the proposed cabin. First, the wigwam's wall system works well to protect against wind, rain and sun by layering and overlapping materials. Likewise, the proposed cabin uses a layered wall system that is durable and protects against the elements. Second, the wigwam is heated and cooled using passive systems driven by thoughtful building orientation. The proposed cabin is sited to protect the dwelling from prevailing winds, take advantage of solar heat gain and ventilate passively. Third, a wigwam achieves strength by its curved structural elements. The cabin's main structural elements are two trees and the hearth. These elements are connected by bent wood rings.
An architecture that is contemporary and innovative can be created by carefully considering past and present influences of an area. Re-interpreting these physical and metaphorical values can shape the built environment in a way that is meaningful to a building's inhabitants. These techniques were used during the design process to enhance and protect the natural world, in turn, creating a place to dwell.
Photograph used in visualization was originally taken by Kale Harper and modified with the permission of the owner.
7 scanned / 6 viewable
- Photograph of Model