To mark the holiday season, we’ve put together a selection of five vacation homes designed for escaping to the woods, the mountains, the slopes of a volcano, and the banks of a river. This is architecture purpose built for relaxation, reflection, fun, or creating unforgettable moments in nature.
HELEN & HARD ARCHITECTS
Woodnest is the fitting name of a project comprising two tree houses designed by Helen & Hard Architects. The architecture was a specific response to the topography of the site, above the Hardangerfjord in Odda, Norway.
Each of the tree houses is suspended at a height of 16–20 feet (5–6 m) above the ground and is anchored by a steel collar to the trunk of a large pine tree. The studio’s goal was to create something that truly embodies the concept of living in nature. From that followed the idea of building houses suspended in the trees. Access to the homes from the ground is via small timber bridges.
Measuring just 161 square feet (15 sq.m.) in area, each home is carefully organized around its tree trunk anchor to include four sleeping places, a bathroom, a kitchen area, and a living space. The window, which runs along almost the entire perimeter of each building, offers spectacular views through the trees to the fjord below. Untreated wood shingles surround the homes, creating a protective skin that, with time, will blend perfectly into its natural surroundings.
Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta has designed an atmospheric hiking cabin on the Jostedalsbreen Glacier in western Norway. All the structures on the plateau were designed by Snøhetta, which successfully created a refuge for hikers who want to get close to nature.
All the structures have glulam frames with CLT panels and are finished with pine cladding. The angled shape of the walls is intended to deflect the strong winds that blow across the plateau without affecting the supporting structures.
The main cabin has a dining room, a large living room, large windows, and a stone-finish fireplace. The other structures are a dormitory and a room that can sleep up to around 30 people. Once the planned nine cabins have been completed, Tungestølen will be able to accommodate up to 50 visitors.
Le Littoral, designed by Architecture49, is a luxury tourist residence just a short distance from the St. Lawrence River, in Montreal, Canada. Working with their clients, the architects created a residence with a minimalist, sustainable design that pays homage to the simple beauty of its setting.
By reworking the physiognomy of the region’s traditional farm buildings and adapting it to meet the needs of modern tourism, the project blends into the surrounding landscape. Following the contour of the land, the building is oriented along a precise axis so as to offer the best views of the river to the front and take full advantage of the forest behind it.
The layout of the rooms is intended to minimize energy consumption in both summer and winter. The kitchen, which occupies a large area upstairs, is fully equipped with every appliance and utensil that any amateur chef could desire. The swimming pool, sauna, fireplace, and spa all contribute to the comfort and relaxation of the occupants. Most of the materials used to build Le Littoral are both natural and locally sourced, including eastern cedar and pine.
The building site itself had a major influence on the decisions made by Faulkner Architects when designing Lookout House in Truckee, California. Located on sloping land at nearly two thousand meters (6,300 ft.) above sea level, the site sits at the base of a geological area with volcanic origins. The site, which is full of volcanic sediments and strewn with large boulders, is surrounded by a forest of Jeffry pines and white firs.
This wonderful natural backdrop is enriched by the presence of Lookout House, which seems to blend into its setting like a small hut. The concrete walls are 50 centimeters (20 inches) thick and form the shape of the design, extending from the ground to the roofs. Horizontally, the walls extend beyond the internal spaces to create inviting outdoor areas at either end of the home.
The red-orange color of the glazing recalls volcanic magma and allows natural light to be transformed into warm tones that penetrate to the entrance and central stairs. The palette of materials is minimal, mainly concrete, glass, and walnut, with basalt floors. The bedrooms are tucked away behind an acoustically insulating California walnut screen. The partially underground entry level houses the garage, games room, and a workspace.
Vermont Cabin is a compact cabin designed by Olson Kundig. It emerges from the hillside amidst white pines and maples, establishing an intimate relationship with its natural setting. Envisioned by the client as a place to live within the forest, the home occupies 750 square feet (70 sq.m.) and has been built using such elementary materials as steel, wood, and concrete.
The cabin is on three levels. The lowest part is underground and comprises the garage, which doubles as a games room, a single bedroom, and a bathroom. The middle floor consists of the main entrance, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Finally, the upper level is devoted to living space. Placing the main living area on the upper level was the best way to take advantage of the views over the Green Mountains to the west and the Worcester Range to the east. A single continuous steel and maple staircase connects the three levels.
Both inside and out, materials have been left in their raw state, with weathering steel siding and exposed timber ceilings. With an external steel staircase, the house has entrances on both the lower and middle floors. The important role of materials in the project is underscored by cast concrete furnishings in perfect harmony with the rest of the building.