A Quarantine Cabin Made from Zero-Kilometer Wood

John Hill
2. April 2021
Photo: Adrià Goula

Designed and built by master's degree students at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, The Voxel is a prototype for a quarantine cabin, where an individual can live self-sufficiently for two weeks. It was made entirely from on-site timber combined with industrialized technologies.

Project: The Voxel, 2020
Location: Collserola, Barcelona, Spain
Hosted by: Valldaura Labs at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya
Directed by: Vicente Guallart & Daniel Ibañez
Academic Coordination by: Michael Salka
Developed by: Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities students, class of 2020: Alex Hadley, Anfisa Mishchenko, Sena Kocaoğlu, Camille Garnier, Dania Aburouss, Ester Camps Bastida, Filippo Vegezzi, Giada Mirizzi, Juan Gabriel Secondo, Maitri Joy Uka, Camila Fajardo, Nathalie Botbol, Shreya Sharma, Yue Zhang, Zhiqian Liu, Rafael Abboud, Irene Rodriguez Perez
Valldaura Management by: Laia Pifarré  
Sponsored by: Saltoki, Miogás, Mausa, Distribució Sostenible, Bestiario, Henkel, Cork 2000 & Tallfusta
Guided by: Oscar Aceves, Miquel Rodriguez, Jochen Scheerer, Elena Orte, Guillermo Sevillano, Eduardo Chamorro, David Valldeoriola, Miguel Nevado, Jordi Prat, Gustavo Escudero
Assisted by: Bruno Ganem, Luis Leveri, Akshay Mhamunkar, Daniel Nahmias, Layth Sidiq, Kya Kerner
Photo: Adrià Goula

The Voxel takes the typical two-week mandate for coronavirus quarantine to the extreme, removing the individual to the Collserola Natural Park surrounding Barcelona. Here, a small cabin equipped with solar panels, a complex water system, and rooftop plants enables a person to live self-sufficiently for that period. It is an extension of an idea long explored at IAAC, most notably through the Advanced Architecture Contests that have carried such themes as "Self-Sufficient Housing," the "Self-Fab House," and "Self-Sufficient City." The Voxel is basically a combination of these themes born from the circumstances of the pandemic; if people did not see the value in hyper-local construction and the potential need for self-sufficiency before, they do now.

Photo: Adrià Goula

Students in IAAC's Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities (MAEBB) designed and built the cabin last year with the help of volunteers and a group of experts organized by Daniel Ibáñez and Vicente Guallart, directors of the master's program. MAEBB is headquartered at IAAC's Valldaura Labs, which is located in Collserola and has a number of laboratories and facilities the students put to use. One of them was a press machine for making CLT (cross laminated timber) panels, the primary structure for the cabin. Forty pine trees within a kilometer of the site were cut down selectively to maintain the forest's ecological balance. The trunks were sliced into pieces 30mm thick, dried for a few months, then cut and planed to standard sizes 20mm thick. Finally, the pieces were glued and pressed in stacks three layers high to form the 60mm CLT panels that make up the walls, floors, and roof.

Photo: Adrià Goula

The character of the cabin on the outside hardly express the CLT though. Not wasting any parts of the trees felled in the forest, the students used the offcuts to create a rainscreen with diagonal slats mounted on frames in front of the CLT box and its various parts: water tanks, outdoor shower, ladder to the roof. Even the entry stair and deck is made from the CLT offcuts. Although the CLT surfaces are dark on the outside, thanks to a layer of cork insulation, the slats read as distinct from the main structure due to their charring, aka the Shou Sugi Ban technique. According to the team, "these off-cuts were turned into a facade that showcases the organic complexity of the tree that is usually hidden in most wooden constructions."

Photo: Adrià Goula

Inside, the cabin is entirely CLT surfaces, wood furniture, and services: water fixtures and exposed conduit. The students used a "Fixed-Dynamic-Fluid" concept for the interior that, in their words, "invites the adaptability of the space according to different users while providing all the comforts of a house in a structured manner." Elements such as the toilet and sink are fixed, but the furniture can be moved around, and the occupant can use the horizontal surface by the corner window as a desk one moment, for instance, or place a mattress on it and use it as a bed. Above it a loft space and another corner window, which helps heat the interior but also provides a slightly elevated view of the forest from whence the cabin came.

Photo: Adrià Goula
Photo: Adrià Goula
Photo: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Photo: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Photo: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Photo: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Drawing: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Drawing: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Drawing: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Drawing: IAAC Valldaura Labs
Drawing: IAAC Valldaura Labs

Verwandte Artikel

Andere Artikel in dieser Kategorie