Cairn Cabins

HUUM designed tourist hiking huts around the country of Iceland for an international competition. The Cairn Cabins transform from one story into two story by hydraulic scissor lifts within 1 minute, activated with the swipe of an RFID card or code sent to a cell phone.

Why would a building want to perform so uniquely for Icelandic trekking huts?

1. Context and tradition

2. Energy and Environment

3. Protection and Maintenance

4. Wonder and Surprise

Context and tradition

The cabin form is born of two distinct Icelandic elements reconsidered as architecture.

1. Basalt pillars of volcanic geology are found throughout the island. We imagine finding these unique shaped pieces weathered and shorn from an adjacent cliff that with intent are turned into shelter. The morphology and texture are of this place.

2. The other geologic as well as cultural cue stems from the recent past—the tradition of creating small stacked rocks called cairns used as way finding elements. Like a pile of indistinct rocks when compacted as one floor, the brown weathered steel and reflective stainless steel are an unremarkable building on the landscape. When stacked into the cairn composition, i.e. a two story volume, the tall volume and bright colored glass is a brilliant marker in the distance for the approaching, appreciative hiker.

Energy and Environment

When compact, the first floor channel glass enclosure is covered by the 25 cm thick 2nd story walls, creating a doubly insulated wall, eliminating unwanted heat gain or loss. Additionally, there is no second floor space that needs conditioning while unoccupied. The channel glass is aerogel filled providing robust insulative value when exposed to the environment with light that penetrates evenly into the space. A wind turbine combined with solar PV captures renewable resources and provides all the energy needs of the cabin—electricity for heating domestic and radiant floor water, lights, powering the hydraulics and water pump from the rain and snow catchment basin. These make for a low upkeep facility and low impact on the environment.

Protection and Maintenance

In all seasons Iceland weather can produce intense UV, high winds, driving rains, ice and snow. The first floor will only be exposed to these elements when occupied, hence when unoccupied and compact reducing maintenance on the first floor exterior. The second floor cowl is covered with weathered steel and stainless steel which need no maintenance, similar to the durable corrugated metal panels of traditional island construction. Protection from any potential vandalism is mitigated by the cowl covering the glass first floor when unoccupied, protected like a turtle hiding its head inside the shell. An RFID chip system is used by the trekkers to activate hydraulics that raise the cowl up.

Wonder and Surprise

In all seasons Iceland weather can produce intense UV, high winds, driving rains, ice and snow. The first floor will only be exposed to these elements when occupied, hence when unoccupied and compact reducing maintenance on the first floor exterior. The second floor cowl is covered with weathered steel and stainless steel which need no maintenance, similar to the durable corrugated metal panels of traditional island construction. Protection from any potential vandalism is mitigated by the cowl covering the glass first floor when unoccupied, protected like a turtle hiding its head inside the shell. An RFID chip system is used by the trekkers to activate hydraulics that raise the cowl up.