ISSUE 14  |  The Indoor Outdoor Life

Architect Visit: An Indestructible Cabin on Stilts by Olson Kundig

April 09, 2015 10:00 AM

BY Meredith Swinehart

No leaking roofs, broken windows, or flooded basements here: this is a cabin for people who don’t like surprises. 

Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects designed a “virtually indestructible” cabin in the woods of Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula for a couple who wanted a simple place to stay while fishing for steelhead. They required that it be a low-cost, no-maintenance cabin that could be left unattended–sometimes in harsh weather–for weeks at a time. The final product is a 350-square-foot timber box clad in unfinished mild steel standing on steel stilts. It exists in harmony with the wilderness–its small footprint is light on the land–while also functioning as a reinforced stalwart against it.

Photography by Benjamin Benschneider.  

Above: The cabin’s steel stilts allow for a truly minimal footprint on the land, while protecting the cabin from occasional flooding of the nearby river. The architects had most of the cabin prefabricated offsite, reducing the disruption to the cabin site by construction.

Above: The cabin is “open” when a series of steel shutters are rolled back to reveal a wall of windows, operated via a hand wheel that sets into motion a mechanical system of gears and cables. When closed, the steel shutters cover the cabin’s windows, effectively sealing it off from the elements.  

Above: A balcony with a mesh floor juts out from the cabin on the side facing the river. Inside, the double-height cabin interior is lined with wood panels. The living, dining, kitchen, and bathroom areas are on the main floor, and a sleeping loft with storage shelving is overhead.

In the interest of frugality–fiscal and environmental–the architects used the client’s stock of leftover lumber to build the sleeping loft: they stacked, glued, and bolted 2-by-4-inch lumber together to create a nontraditional hardwood floor.

Above: The cantilevered roof hangs over the edge of the cabin to provide shade and protection from coastal storms. 

We’re fans of Olson Kundig. See more in Garage Envy: 10 Sleekly Styled Garages and on Remodelista, A Master Architect Builds a Tiny Cabin in the Pacific Northwest.