When the owners of this home first broke ground in 2009, they envisioned a place to retreat into the wild. The land is tucked away in Marblemount, Washington, about a two-hour drive from Seattle, and overlooks a lush canopy that stretches to the Cascade Mountains. For years, nothing obstructed the view but a frame that one owner, a cabinetmaker, had built with others. But eventually, in 2014, architect David Coleman completed the long-awaited property. “I wanted to claim a small piece of the wild site, rather than create a sprawling complex,” he said. His namesake architecture firm created a joint 890-square-foot cabin and 1,000-square-foot studio where an abundance of windows and a series of open spaces maximize the natural setting.
Located in a hidden valley on the picturesque Izu Peninsula, a few hours west of Tokyo, the Watanabe Residence, designed by architect Tadashi Murai, looks more like an imposing black box propped amidst the wooded landscape than a model of environmental friendliness. In Japan, where the average life span of a building is about 25 years, using basic materials like plywood was essential to Murai’s design.
For years, architect Germán Brun and practicing Buddhist Jason Gordon—members of the same Miami soccer team—casually batted ideas around for a cabin. “Then one day, it finally happened,” Brun says. Gordon’s plot of land sits within the Katog Choling Rit’hröd Buddhist center in the Ozark Mountains, and he wanted to create a haven that echoed its philosophy. (Gordon’s longtime teacher and mentor, Khentrul Rinpoche, established the retreat in 2006.) “My idea was to live off the grid and to live simply,” Gordon says.
Completed in fall 2013 for just over $118,000, Gordon’s 1,157-square-foot house was designed to have as little of an impact on its environment as possible. Green elements include a photovoltaic array, a rainwater catchment system, and a pier footing foundation that elevates the house over the land, minimizing site disturbance. The restrained interior features bamboo flooring, Vermont slate tile, recycled paper countertops, and ample glass to showcase the surrounding deciduous forest. “When I go inside, my mind expands,” Gordon says. “The interior offers clarity and calm."
33-year old Go Hasegawa is known for investigating the character of spaces that are partly inside and partly outside, accentuating the relationship between a building and its immediate surroundings. When an elderly couple residing in Tokyo asked him to design a weekend retreat in the dense forest of Agatsuma-gun, Hasegawa mimicked the surrounding tall, slender trees. The main living space floats 6.5 meters (roughly 21 feet) in midair and is supported by thin stilts, creating an outdoor patio beneath it. The design fulfills two requests: It provides the couple with a concrete deck on the ground floor that is spacious enough for the entire family to gather for a barbecue, as well as a rooftop platform high enough in the surrounding tree canopy to see Mount Asama during wintertime.
A steeply sloped site in the Wisconsin forest, plus an equally steep budget, led architect Brian Johnsen to reinvent the archetypal cabin for a sturdy vacation home. The 880-square-foot home’s reductive palette of concrete, anodized metal, cedar, and stucco was chosen not only for its cost-effectiveness, but also for durability and practicality.
Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi’s weekend retreat, two and a half hours northwest of Tokyo, is “an arresting concept,” photographer Dean Kaufman says, who documented the singular refuge in the Chichibu mountain range. “It’s finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.”
Sited on a lake near Bracebridge, Ontario, this small-footprint family cottage was designed by Toronto firm superkül to integrate with its natural surroundings and minimize its environmental impact. The clients, a married couple, had mixed feelings about going completely modern with their cabin's aesthetic, so the architects created a sculptural wood form to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary. Photo by Shai Gil.