Every year we have a different topic and we invite architects to reflect on it.
We are preparing the topic of 2019.
Meanwhile you can find our topic of 2018 below.
- Are you experiencing extreme irritability and restlessness from living in a crowded urban area with a 9-5 job?
- Do you have a inescapable desire to create your own perfectly personalised shed, studio, hut, lodge or a cabin?
- Do you feel lonely and isolated in urban crowds and crave a tightly knit community?
- Do you think the only way for you to express your architectural ideas is by designing your own tiny house?
- Have you had enough of cabins already, but secretly wish you had one as well?
If your answer is yes, you may have
Upon the hypochondric realisation that Hello Wood also has the cabin fever, we invite you to undergo therapy with us by building cabins while self-analysing this phenomenon’s root causes and effects.
We are inviting you to join our builder society
to build yet another cabin as a therapy.
Cabin fever is a term in psychology that we are referring to
both as a reaction to the increasingly urban lifestyle
and as a wide spread excitement across the architectural field.
Psychological term for the extreme irritability and restlessness caused by the feeling of isolation and solitude. Reaction often occurs when stuck indoors for an extended period. Paradoxically its occurrence is also frequent in cities: “one nowhere feels as lonely and lost as in the metropolitan crowd” says Georg Simmel philosopher.
One therapy for cabin fever may be as simple as getting out and interacting with nature. Research has demonstrated that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being.
A colloquial term for the world-wide phenomenon of the excitement of building one’s own cabin as a way to express the complexities of their architectural ideologies.
The first step in therapy is diagnosis and finding the root causes. We aim to gain an understanding through undertaking the method of building a cabin, tackling its aspects through design, and maintaining a critical self-analysing approach throughout the process.
What are the economic, social or spatial concerns or changes that provoke the urge to build one’s own cabin?
Cabin fever has reached a truly wide range of devotees, from those who followed Rousseau and reconnected to nature by building their own huts, through the urban nomads of today, or people for whom minimal living space is not a choice but a survival necessity, to even industrial giants as MUJI or IKEA. So what is this “disease” that managed to spread to such a diverse audience?
How can one architectural typology serve so many, often contradictory conditions? This world-wide phenomenon cannot be treated under one roof, it has to have several different root causes. To explore this, we paired up some of the circumstances where cabins manifest, to compare them through their differences, contradictions and surprising overlaps. To conclude our explorations, we are looking for cabin designs that address aspects of cabin fever, which we will build to test our theories on ourselves.
Through this method we hope to retrace and understand the deficiencies of architecture today that kindle cabin fever.
We are looking for proposals that aim to uncover the hidden root causes of the cabin fever phenomenon. Using the typology of cabins as the platform for expression, and collaborative building as a self-analysing group therapy.
CONNECTION TO PREVIOUS YEARS
For the last 3 years Hello Wood summer schools have run under the name of Project Village, exploring options to form a 21st century village. The subject of our research was Csóromfölde and the Project Village itself, a developing village and a rural campus in one, where all our self-reflective analyses have been taking place.
This 3 year programme has shed light on several other important topics as well, worth further exploring individually. The first such exploration is CABIN FEVER, where we search for the motivation behind this phenomenon.
REFERENCES FOR THE TOPIC
To explore this CABIN FEVER trend, we are organising an architectural competition, where we invite architects to express their insights through designing a cabin. Building the winning proposals together with architecture students at the summer school, we will then test these theoretical findings on ourselves.
This year, we are going to build cabins as an ideal accommodation all year round, while still addressing their architectural and social relevance. To give the designers inspiration for this analysis, and to help their imaginations set off to an interesting path, we have collected a series of possible approaches and some references as influences.
All of these topics aim to provide interesting comparisons due to their contradictions, with the only common point of either cabins or the act of building. Successful project proposals will be durable, long-term constructions that address either one of these topic-pairs in their design, or provide a similarly complex insight into the issue of CABIN FEVER.
CAMPING vs CAMP
"Don't design yet another shelter for refugees, they are not a species" said humanitarian expert Kilian Kleinschmidt. He stresses that instead of proposing makeshift apps and gadgets “for refugees” we should change our attitude towards refugee camps, and stop treating them as temporary inhabitations.
In opposition, the hope to find a temporary shelter is the strongest among festival visitors. While both situations tend to result in minimal living spaces, their conditions differ enormously. The difference between these spatial circumstances is that while people escape the ordinary in camping, people in camps are in fact seeking an ordinary.
So where do cabins lie in this system of opposite aspirations? Minimum living space, may it be called refugee shelters, glamping huts or tiny homes, seems to have been found as a solution to many circumstances. Is it possible to serve both of these two extreme situations through cabins?
TEMPORARY vs PERMANENT
We tend to treat celebrations, rituals, holidays as the temporal break from our permanent, homogeneous everyday life. In The Sacred and the Profane Mircea Eliade deduces that the paradoxical nature of celebrational days as cyclical, annually returning events creates a situation where they become the only constant. Celebrations can thus be interpreted as the permanence around which we live our ever-changing temporal everydays.
Can we even talk about permanence without the temporary? This paradox of the relation between temporariness and permanence is also apparent in living spaces. Isn’t the prospect of a soon-to-come weekend getaway in fact the motivation that enables us to overcome the difficulties of the everyday?
Considering that temporary living structures have been permanent parts of cultures since the earliest civilisations, how can we approach a permanent phenomenon consisting of temporary architectural objects?
RURAL vs URBAN
Could someone in need of an affordable urban living space and someone on search for a rural getaway spot choose the exact same architectural object? Does the common proposal of cabins mean they serve both situations or neither?
Can urban cabins create affordable housing? Micro-apartments have become one of the most popular responses to the current housing problem. While Nick Axel architect and theorist argues that they are “ultimately a revolution in and for the project of densification”, Jesse Connuck retorts that “we are unquestionably lowering our standards if we accept expanding tables and furniture that folds into the wall as a solution for inequality”.
Do rural getaway cabins create positive changes globally? It is proven that a weekend getaway provides a perhaps irreplaceable relief to the stresses of urban-dwellers and that these visits can spread knowledge of rural areas. It is also important to consider however that this phenomenon could result in further inequalities between the urban and rural communities. Gandhi claimed that "today our villages have become a mere appendage to the cities. (...) This is unnatural. It is only when the cities realize the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength (...) they derive from them, instead of selfishly exploiting them, that a healthy and moral relationship between the two will spring up.”
COMMUNITY vs EGO
One of the main causes for developing cabin fever is the conflict between community and ego. The popular notion of ‘participation’ in architecture can simply be interpreted as the act of sharing responsibility. This has forced the ego and the responsibilities of the architect into the background,which might interfere with the personal growth and development of architects. Could we say that cabins are the last resort for expressing the ego of an architect?
Or, on the contrary, isn’t building a cabin precisely the project where the involvement of an architect is unnecessary? Nick Axel and Arjen Oosterman discuss that the simple cabin “both represents a mythical origin of architecture and an ideal: man’s ability to live a natural life, wherein basics are appreciated as richness. But that very image questions the involvement of the architect. It’s highly ambiguous, contradictory even, because do we need that expert when it comes to shelter? (...) Instead of helping people to provide for their basic needs, the architect would define these needs for them, creating molds for a life that was most often different from the lives being lived...”
VOLUNTOURISM vs VOLUNTEERING
With our summer schools, we aim to research social architectural causes while still providing an opportunity for self-development.
We are searching for a self-reflective analysis of the act of making as a community and its relation to the ego.
Contribution requires the highest level of preparation from participants in order to help those in need. For example, while volunteering at disaster relief projects is very effective in the short term, isn’t the instant, makeshift solution failing to provide long-term benefits if it neglects to develop the knowledge of the individual contributors?
‘Participatory’ projects can provide a common benefit that incorporates the development of the individuals and their ideals, increasingly popular among architects, in so-called social architecture. While often successful in meeting local needs, without preparation and proper leadership, shared responsibility can lead to the confusion of priorities, failing to contribute to either the common goal or the individual.
Exploitation is the effect a social architect fears the most. It is when focus on the personal development of the individual takes over from the common goal - but this might not be entirely negative. In the long term, helping to develop individuals could spark larger changes globally. Even a bad example, like the voluntourism issue expressed by Barbie Savior, can open others’ eyes and motivate them to act differently.
What is then the ideal way to treat the act of making as a community in a summer school?
MANUAL vs INDUSTRIAL
The difference between manually and industrially created artefacts is more than the cost or time requirements. The difference is in the presence, the craft by hands, the experience, or the lack thereof. The current “migration of control from human hands to software systems”, as Manuel De Landa puts it, manifests not only in fabrication but also in its social circumstances and visual results. In parallel, this shift in power brings effects of gender inequality and new approaches to older traditions such as ornamented architecture.
If digital fabrication brings such new developments and financial solutions, why do we still value manual craft?
Richard Sennett in The Craftsman advocates for craftsmanship as a way to explore “the desire to do a job well for its own sake – as a template for living.” Craft is therefore much more than just pure experience.
Building a cabin is therefore a way to renew our lives, a therapy in itself. Builders can reconnect to the old-new ways of recognition and understanding. Through creation the modern person can reconnect to the long lost sacred and experience life as a heterogeneous social experience.
Could it be that cabin fever and craftsmanship are a way to reveal social deficiencies?
CONNECTED vs OFF-GRID
A holiday in a cabin retreat is a classic symbol of “going off the grid”, disconnecting.
But what is it that we are connected to or disconnected from? Unrestricted connection to millions online is at our fingertips today, making Marshall McLuhan’s vision of a global village into reality. While speculations in the 90s suggested that digital networks would make our physical location irrelevant, an increasing amount of digital services today are developed to utilise and profit from physical location proving the contrary. Such examples are Google Maps and Uber monetising spatial locations, Tinder enabling new connections based on proximity, Foursquare and Facebook adopting the expression of “checking-in”, and Pokemon Go and VR completely merging what “real” and digital spaces mean.
If digital and physical space are so intertwined, then “connecting” becomes a rather ambiguous term. It can both mean a) restoring our attachment to our physical, natural context or b) getting completely immersed in our digital networks and connect to otherwise impossibly wide social circles.
Why do we want to disconnect? Amelia Borg and Timothy Moore argue that “The importance of disconnection is not just a question of privacy; being able to disconnect is pivotal to the reflection and consequent reinvigoration with the world around us”
While this feeling of disconnection has positive effects on creativity and a balanced lifestyle, it might be a mere illusion of returning to ideals set out in older decades (e.g. Rousseau’s vision of returning to nature) that are in fact impossible in today’s context.
Is it even possible to completely disconnect from either environment? bringing an extreme example, Stephen Knott discusses that even Robinson Crusoe, the most disconnected person imaginable today “is still dependent on a priori labor performed outside the island. (...) Like Crusoe, who was dependent on (...) materials reclaimed from the (...) remnants of the shipwreck, we are all reliant on global networks of production and labor.”
Thomas Thwaites’ ambitious endeavour to create his own toaster without any help of prior technology illustrates the impossibility of an actual disconnection in today’s interconnected systems.
Is building and inhabiting a cabin therefore a failing attempt to reach illusions of a long lost utopia? Or is a temporary distance from the digital world an equally important relief in today’s urban lifestyle?
TRENDY vs EXPERTISE
When talking about trends, the notion of values often comes to mind. Is doing something trendy less valuable than doing something we have developed expertise in? Or is the strong driving force behind a current fashion, whatever it may be, just as valuable? Alois Riegl art historian, specifically through his term of Kunstwollen argues that to understand the value of any individual art it is crucial to gain an understanding of the trends and contexts of its time. In today’s context, we could ask: what is the difference between a lumbersexual and an “authentic” lumberjack?
Examining fashion trends as they are spreading is a particularly difficult task, as it is rather complicated to take on an objective and analytical position. Self-analysis therefore is a rather complex quest. How can we analyse summer school methods and cabin fever if we are immersed in them?
Could we understand the underlying reasons for the development of this trend by becoming involved ourselves, while keeping our eyes open and maintaining an analytical and critical approach?