Cabin Fever

From solitary wool-lined cabin to forest clubhouse

Yearning for a life closer to nature: architects build 7 cabin prototypes

Architecture photography by Tamás Bujnovszky
Mood photos of the summer university and festival
Drone images by Marcos Llerena

At this year’s Hello Wood International Summer University and Festival students got the chance to build seven contemporary cabins. As part of the week-long Cabin Fever programme, participants were mentored by international architects - Hungarian AU workshop and Marton Low, Czech H3T architekti, Italian ZarCola, Spanish architect Josep Garriga and OfficeShophouse, Argentinian iR arquitectura and Swiss frundgallina -  constructing tiny houses in a collaborative process. In the future, these moveable, liveable and unique wooden cabins could even become prototypes for boutique accommodation in popular weekend destinations. Hello Wood is a European offshoot of the Tiny House Movement and makes cabins which give urban dwellers the chance to get away from it all for a while.

This is the ninth time that the Hello Wood International Summer University and Festival has been organised for architecture and design students. Hello Wood’s campus on a piece of nomadic land in the lush Hungarian countryside increasingly resembles a working village thanks to the efforts of students and architects arriving from 30 countries and 65 universities.

The once uncultivated site has become interesting in terms of both architecture and design and has recently seen the arrival of tiny cutting-edge houses. The buildings include the Hungarian AU workshop’s wool-lined cabin retreat, the Hello Wood forest clubhouse, the cabin on wheels by Czech H3T architekti, the 12-metre high Swiss frundgallina lodge, the multi-storey homes by ZarCola from Italy, the cabin on stilts by the Spanish architect Josep Garriga + OfficeShophouse, and the Argentinian iR arquitectura’s building that has the potential to become a passive house with the use of solar energy. 

The most important aspect of Hello Wood’s internationally-renowned, innovative teaching method is that students from all over the world are able to gain practical experience to supplement the abstract, overwhelmingly theoretical classes they have at the university. At this year’s camp, students were able to see first-hand how a 2D design drawing is used to create a real building. They also got to learn how to apply tin roofing, saw how good insulation works, and became familiar with the layers that make up the walls of the houses. Besides becoming acquainted with the building material and the values of teamwork, students also encountered innovative technological developments. For instance, LafargeHolcim Group, one of the largest cement producers in the world provided its new mineral thermal insulation material to the Hello Wood team, to gain experimental feedback at the early stages of going to market. One of the groups was also able to see what it is like to build a cabin using pre-manufactured wall panels thanks to a local manufacturer, Berger Houses, which makes prefabricated houses using technology unparalleled in Hungary. The use of environment-friendly ground screws, experimental infrared water purification equipment, the introduction of community cleanup and selective waste collection are all part of the effort to keep Hello Wood amongst the most innovative architectural education programmes.

The innovative approach has been attracting the attention of the international architecture community for some time. Although participants arrive to the programme from all over the world, the private initiative is currently organised in two locations - Hungary and Argentina. To support the programme in its international roll-out the Hungarian Tourism Agency entered into a co-operative partnership with Hello Wood this year. The agency is promoting local creative industry internationally and committed itself to support Hello Wood’s tiny house development.

A new wave of Rousseau-esque longing

It is no coincidence that cabins were the source of such inspiration this year for Hello Wood’s curators, founder Péter Pozsár and architect Fruzsina Karig. ‘The Tiny House Movement began in America but is spreading into Europe. Building your own cabin is now a mainstream trend here’, says Fruzsina Karig. Hello Wood wants to spearhead the tiny house movement on this side of the Atlantic and is, therefore, doing its best to set the theoretical framework for this trend.

Over the centuries there have always been periods when people in big cities en masse start yearning for a life closer to nature. ‘They want to retreat and take a step back from the prevailing societal structures’, says Péter Pozsár. Rousseau and Heidegger, not to mention hippies in the 1970s, all did the same. In recent years this craze has become popular among affluent people, and at the same time small-sized, temporary homes that can be erected quickly have become popular within social architecture, albeit for entirely different reasons. The creators of the Hello Wood camp have also been looking at the question of whether the same typology also works when functions conflict and contexts are different.

2019 will mark the 10th anniversary of Hello Wood International Summer University and Festival. Hence next year they will celebrate the decade-long community building with a new theme: Celebrations and Holidays. The event will recall the beginnings and the more recent years with new structures and ceremonial performances. Hello Wood requests the pleasure of everyone’s company who is willing to join them to recall the mood and characteristics of the past in an environment designed for community's reflections.

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