by Jerry ElengicalJul 26, 2021
How would it be to switch up rooms inside your house at fancy, where your kitchen becomes your bedroom one day, or the walls of your bedroom slide open to become an open air verandah - architectural designer Caspar Schols builds that idea into reality with the modular Cabin ANNA, a truly versatile and prefab house that can be built anywhere. Presenting itself as a simple wooden dwelling with a metal gable roof and moving walls, Cabin ANNA offers the possibility to adjust its exterior layers to any occasion, mood or weather. “ANNA seduces to reconnect with nature. It adapts to you, it listens to you and comforts you. ANNA is flexible as clothing. Any weather, mood or occasion. Simply arrange and rearrange its layers,” remarks Schols.
The main idea of the home is to be able to create a palpable connect between a user, their house and nature. The residential architecture is outlined by its two outer walls or shells, which glide atop tracks built into the structure, allowing for various spatial layouts. The inner walls are a framework of wood and glass, separated from the metal roofed, wooden outer walls. The glass structure follows the two inner rails that run in parallel along the sides of the cabin, while the wooden part follows the outer rails, gliding past each other smoothly, creating warm wooden outlines and glass sunrooms.
“The name ANNA is a palindrome that matches the palindrome character of the cabin. One can see the As as the glass sliding shells and the Ns as the wooden sliding shells,” Schols clarifies. The structure also gets its name from Schols' mother Anna, and also as an ode to Mother Nature.
With no formal training in architecture, the Netherlands-based physicist-cum designer created Garden House in 2016, after his mother asked him to design a pavilion that could be used for dinner parties with friends, theatre performances by her grandchildren, painting and meditating. “After months, Garden House came about, with a possibility to rearrange its layers according to the needs and weather conditions, and above all, bring her close to nature,” relays Schols.
The modular architectur gained massive global popularity, amassing accolades such as the Dirk Roosenburg Award (Eindhoven) and the Radical Innovation Award (New York), which further led him to secure a scholarship to study at the Architectural Association in London (2016-2019). He has been developing the concept ever since, resulting in a redesigned version called Cabin ANNA, which also branch out in three variants – ANNA Stay home, ANNA Meet office and ANNA Me, the first two ready for production.
“While I lost myself in my new life in London, I was playing with the idea to create a new design based on the fundamentals of Garden House. I wanted to design a sellable, fully inhabitable house, a flat-pack that could be built and re-built anywhere in the world,” Schols tells STIR. “It was quite a challenge to turn the one-off design for my mother into a reproducible and affordable product. Cabin ANNA is now a fully habitable house or workplace that can be flexibly assembled and disassembled anywhere,” he adds.
ANNA Stay is designed for short or long-term home occupancy, with two sliding shells instead of the original four. “These walls are longer and cover more area,” mentions Schols. The non-movable parts host a kitchen, shower, toilet and storage space. The area above the kitchen has been made into a mezzanine that becomes a non-movable, second double bed, making ANNA Stay suitable for a family of four. The lounge and bedroom area fit within the movable space so that they transition into an open-air patio, a space fit for outdoor activities.
ANNA Meet has four movable shells similar to the Garden House that transform the cottage into a workspace. Schols explains that this one is formulated as a blank, multi-functional platform, to host a wide range of activities such as yoga, writing, meetings, sleeping, bathing, dinners, education, bird watching, star gazing, experiencing heavy rain showers or early sunny mornings, and so on.
“Next to ANNA Stay and ANNA Meet we offer a fully customised version of ANNA - ANNA Me. We can tailor ANNA with each individual’s needs or create a radically new branded cabin concept for your company to locate in your backyard, in the wilderness or an exclusive holiday resort,” says Schols.
Stay and Meet have been created with sustainably grown, durable, untreated larch wood. Insulated with five centimeter of sawdust, birch plywood lines the interior, chosen for its high quality and warm hue. The interior design is heated by a wood stove, and an option to install electric heating is also provided.
“The overall lighting is improved compared to the Garden House, and the views are better as well. In contrast to the vertical windows of Garden House, the new ANNAs have long horizontal ones. The long narrow shape and their positioning right under the overhang of the roof makes sure only indirect sunlight gets in, so the space doesn’t heat up too fast in summer. The windows also give a panoramic view, but only when seated low in a chair, or after waking up and experiencing the view from the bed. This way, when the wood shells are closed there is a warm, cosy, indoor atmosphere,” says Scholls.
Cabin ANNA is also available as an off-grid and on-grid design, and can be delivered whole or as a flatpack comprising 26 parts and 14 steel pillars 1.5m long, the latter recommended for more challenging locations. “These pillars will be unscrewed from the soil when Cabin ANNA is disassembled and moved elsewhere. Nothing will be left behind in nature,” he explains. He also promises that the structure can be constructed with three people in under five days, with the help of a mini electric crane. It can also be disassembled in three days, and all parts fit inside a truck and can be transported easily.
Speaking about the prefab home, Schols says that “throughout this whole process, I found people that supported me, not only in word, but were also ready to financially invest in this new design, called ANNA. This led to more prototypes in which we experimented with more practical use and temporal or permanent inhabitation, in which the initial spirit of flexibility and connectivity to the environment would remain intact. ANNA is a dynamic home in the shape of an open platform to live with rather than against the elements, by playing with the configuration of the layers of the house. Just like the way you dress yourself to suit different weather conditions, occasions and moods”.