Arthur Miller did all his writing in a simple summer cabin. Today, such places of retreat are being designed by architects – with spectacular results. One such example is the little artists' hut named Bridge Studio on Fogo Island in Canada (photo).

The Trail House was named after the walking trails that bypass it. The building, which was designed by Dutch architect Anne Holtrop, is located on a huge, formerly neglected piece of land in the Dutch city of Almere. Erected in 2009 as part of the De Paviljoens Museum's "Unknown Territory" exhibition, it has found its place as part of the otherwise untouched landscape. The property, one of the few open areas in Almere, was surrounded by artificial sand dunes. Wild and protected varieties of orchids surround the building, which is a curvy as a trail that conforms to its surroundings. The interior layout is also based on the trails that gave the 1000-square-meter house of poplar plywood its name. Some of its rooms open themselves up to the outside without walls. At the end of a curved hallway is a bathroom, and a small dressing room leads to a bed. At one of the ends of the trail, a long series of rooms separates the work area from the kitchen.

When Finnish designer Linda Bergroth was commissioned to develop a prototype for a structure that combines features of a variable summer house with those of a greenhouse, she had it installed on her mother's property on Kukio Island and furnished it in accordance with her own taste. That's why her private version of the project features a large bed surrounded by potted plants, all with a view of a picturesque lake.

Bergroth also installed a wooden floor and solar panels. Today, the house including an integrated tool shed is available commercially in four different versions from Finland garden supply house Kekkilä. Despite its plain looks, it features state-of-the-art technology. When the interior exceeds a certain temperature, the glass roof opens automatically.

A "romantic project" is what Italian star architect Renzo Piano calls the minimalist dwelling named Diogene, which he designed in cooperation with furniture maker Vitra and erected on the company's campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany (photo). On six square meters, it has just enough room for a bed, chair, shower, toilet, and a mini-kitchen. The wooden cabin with its pitched roof provides "everything you really need," says Piano,

"and nothing else. According to Vitra, Diogene is "a modern interpretation of the archaic cabin that employs highly complex technology to meet the highest requirements in terms of sustainability and energy efficiency in both production and operation". It is a very modern place of retreat – a mini-house that collect water and generates electricity. "This is utopia," says Piano.

"Le Nichoir" – French for "nesting box" or "birdhouse" – is the name of the retreat designer Matali Crasset created on a piece of forest land in Lorraine. She started the experimental project in 2011, because, she says, her children cannot start a fire anymore and don't know what it is like to wake up to the chirping of jays. In the summer of 2013, Crasset was able to complete the first of her cabins, naming it Le Nichoir (photo). France's minister of culture personally trekked to the site to admire the architectural masterpiece in the woods. The shell-shaped cabin can accommodate up to four guests in 20 square meters of floor space. It is equipped with a wood-burning oven and a privy and all the essentials for spending a night in comfort. Water is only available from canisters, and there is no electricity either. The cabin rents for roughly 80 euros per night.

At first glance, the Squish Studio (photo) with its 30 square meters of floor space looks as if it were about to be engulfed by rocks, the sea and the sky. Like the Bridge Studio mentioned before, the house is one of the masterpieces built by Norwegian architect Todd Saunders on Fogo Island in Newfoundland. Squish Studio impresses with its unusual design,its floor-to-ceiling window and its façade of white pine wood that provides a stark contrast to the surrounding rocks.

Marika Schaertl

Trail House

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