Chinese design studios Wiki-World and Advanced Architecure Lab recently added three new cabins to Natural Campsite, their property dedicated to remote and sustainable design education. On the outskirts of Wuhan City, the campus is the site of ongoing design experiments in prefabricated wooden structures, many of which are cabins. It's also a campus where building courses are open to the local community and university students alike, with the ultimate goal of introducing people to sustainable lifestyles.
Called "Forest Cabins," the set of three new houses playfully employ unique forms and materials. The designers interviewed local families for guidance, prompting them to imagine living in nature. According to the studios, children remarked that remote cabins seemed like lost toys in the forest, and that sentiment stuck, and is interwoven throughout the project.
At about 850 square feet each, "Flying Cube," "Magic Cube," and "Cube Bricks" are all prefabricated from local wood. The cabins stand in close proximity to each other but retain their own protective surrounding of trees, swathes of which the studios leave untouched throughout the campus.
The cabins' toylike nature is apparent inside and out. The Flying Cube is a reflective treehouse, elevated 15 feet above the ground and accessible by ladder. The area beneath the structure acts as a covered gathering space with a fireplace off to one side. Its interior is the stuff of childhood daydreams, consisting of a simple wooden space with a lofted sleeping net. Two large picture windows swing open to let in fresh air while a deck provides elevated views of the neighboring cabins.
Magic Cube and Cube Bricks are built from modular wooden blocks and fit together like Legos to form the structures. Cube Bricks features a modest living area with a central wood stove and a sleeping loft that overlooks the trees. Outside, a porch is just big enough to fit two chairs.
Magic Cube expands on Cube Bricks with two paneled wings. One acts as an extended entrance while the other adds a covered porch. A large sliding glass door opens into the living space, which is a quaint area that mirrors the other two cabins.
The Forest Cabins were built for educational purposes, and as fun, playful structures, they evoke a clear air of childhood imagination. If we're going to escape to the woods to learn and to dream up new possibilities, that place might as well spark imagination as best it can. After all, sustainable building doesn't have to be boring.