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Epic Retreats: Eight Welsh ‘glamping’ cabins revealed

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Eight competition-winning portable ‘hotel rooms’ by architects including Rural Office for Architecture and Waind Gohil + Potter have been completed in Wales

The anonymous competition, open to architects, designers and artists, sought innovative proposals for £11,000 mobile units suitable for overnight ‘glamping’.

Barton Willmore; Timber Design Wales; London-based How About Studio; Francis & Arnett; London’s Miller Kendrick Architects; and Jonathon Donnelly, Jennifer McMaster, Rhys Wright and Rosie Hewett of Sydney’s TRIAS were also chosen for the off-the-grid Epic Retreats project.

Co-founder of Epic Retreats, Llion Pughe said: ‘We are excited to finally reveal the eight cabins that make up Epic Retreats.

‘The unique cabins, complemented by our country’s stunning landscape, make for an unbeatable experience and we look forward to welcoming our first guests this summer who will get to see Wales in a completely unique setting.’

The project is supported by the Welsh government, and coincides with Visit Wales’s 2017 Year of Legends cultural programme, aimed at boosting tourism.

The eight ‘pop-up’ hotels have been constructed in scenic Snowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula and will provide accommodation for up to 200 holiday bookings per year.

Proposals for the cabins were required to make use of Welsh materials and had to be suitable for transportation on a 2.7m-wide, 5.7m-long and 3.4m-high chassis, but could include additional balconies and awnings outside the footprint.

Glamping – luxury camping – has introduced hotel-style amenities to the traditional outdoor pursuit. The cabins also needed to feature a shower, compost toilet, king-sized bed and mattress, basin, seating area and wood-burning stove.

Citations along with project data are given below.

Arthur’s Cave by Miller Kendrick Architects

Miller kendrick 5

Miller kendrick 5

Legend tells us of a cave slept in by King Arthur and his knights while travelling — a cave that could be discovered once and never again…

Stylishly blending in with its surroundings, the cave — which features a large sliding glazed door — is an alluring hideaway from the elements, while locally sourced sheep’s wool insulation and a log fire will keep visitors warm whatever the weather.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Gross internal floor area
 12.2m²
Materials CNC-cut birch plywood ribs and sheathing panels, stained Welsh larch board cladding, sheep’s wool insulation
Construction cost £11,000
Construction cost per m² £901
Structural engineer Momentum Engineering
Quantity surveyor cost consultant PMP Consultants 
Specialist joiner Buford Farm Project
Main contractor EJ Ryder
CAD software used Vectorworks

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Equinox epic retreats 077

Equinox epic retreats 077

This unusual structure is inspired by France’s failed attempt of a British invasion through Fishguard in 1797.

It is said that as the French began their assault, hundreds of local Welsh women came to witness the fighting between the French and the local militia.

Dressed in their traditional scarlet tunics and tall black hats they were a formidable sight and at a distance may have been mistaken for British army Redcoats – suffice to say the French didn’t stick around for long.

A king-sized bed fits within the upper floor of the hat and the domed roof allows for stargazing opportunities.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Gross internal floor area 26m²
Materials Spruce Poled frame, galvanised steel ring beams, larch deck, demountable canvas envelope with clear uPVC lantern, galvanised corrugated sheet, Welsh blanket internal wall lining
Construction cost £11,000
Construction cost per m² £575
Main contractor Rural Office for Architecture supported by Ceridwen Centre, AW Engineering & Seld
Cad software used Vectorworks 2014

Cabin in the Woods by Francis & Arnett

Equinox epic retreats 060

Equinox epic retreats 060

Inspired by the Welsh poem Cad Goddeu, or The Battle of the Trees, the Cabin in the Woods is designed to resemble a creature negotiating its way through the woodland.

The hideaway envelops guests in a padded sleeping area extending to the wall and ceiling, while rooflights make the cabin bright and airy during the day and reveal views of the starry sky at night.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Gross internal floor area 15m²
Materials Timber structure and stained black timber cladding, Cor-ten steel rooflights and plywood interior
Construction cost £11,000
Structural engineer Price & Myers
Main contractor Giles Thaxton
Cad software used Rhino, Grasshopper 

Dragon’s Eye (Llygad y ddraig) by Timber Design Wales

Equinox epic retreats 111

Equinox epic retreats 111

With its stainless steel scaly ‘skin’ and gridshell roof, the Dragon’s Eye pod will fire your imagination.

Relax on the round rotating bed and enjoy a view of the Welsh landscape through the full-height glass ‘eye.’ Or catch up in the warmth of the wood burner while protected from the elements by the sheep’s wool insulation.

End the day with a hot shower in the walk-in wet room clad in reclaimed slate tiles.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Architect/designer Carwyn Jones, Timber Design Wales
Gross internal floor area 12.5m²
Materials Timber frame, plywood, OSB, stainless steel, homegrown Douglas fir scorched, glass, reclaimed slate, cedar
Construction cost £11,000
Construction cost per m² £880
Quantity surveyor Carwyn Jones
Project manager Carwyn Jones
Main contractor Carwyn Jones

Little Dragon by Barton Willmore

Equinox epic retreats 046

Equinox epic retreats 046

While the three prongs represent a dragon’s foot, the overall design is inspired by Wales’ industrial past and the steel door displays the country’s Celtic knotwork.

The layout features a sleeping area upstairs and panoramic glazing at both levels provides for magnificent views across the Welsh landscape.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Gross internal floor area 14m²
Materials Cedar Shingles exterior, Birch plywood interior
Construction cost £11,000
Construction cost per m² £786
Structural engineer Metal Fabrications Co
M&E consultant RV Services
Quantity surveyor Dribuild Group
Project manager Dribuild Group
Carpentry Dilwyn Lear
CDM co-ordinator Dribuild Group
Main contractor Dribuild Group

Miner’s Hut by How About Studio

Equinox epic retreats 002

Equinox epic retreats 002

Miner’s Hut is a tribute to the once-thriving mining industry, central to Wales’ rural communities.

At first glance, the cabin is a collage of mining structures and corrugated iron sheds seen scattered through the Welsh landscape.

But once through the entrance tunnel, you’ll discover exquisite, crafted details. Angular corridors play carefully with light and material to transport your imagination to the subterranean mines.

Project data

Gross internal floor area 15m²
Materials Spruce timber structure, WISA spruce & reclaimed corrugated iron cladding 
Construction cost £11,000
Structural engineer AKT II
Project manager How About Studio
Bespoke metalwork Resident blacksmith of Big Pit Coal Museum, Blaenavon
Main contractor How About Studio

SKYHUT by Waind Gohil + Potter Architects

Equinox epic retreats 104

Equinox epic retreats 104

SKYHUT provides a unique setting to experience Wales’ night sky. It takes inspiration from the myth of Welsh mountain, Cadair Idris, where legend states that travellers sleeping out at night awake as madmen or poets.

With switch to an electric actuator, open the doors to transform your cabin into a glamping-observatory. From day to night, enjoy 360˚ views across the landscape through clerestory eye-level glazing.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Gross internal floor area 9m²
Materials Internal: timber frame clad in birch faced plywood internally. External: black corrugated iron cladding
Construction cost £11,000
Construction cost per m² £1,200
Structural engineer Webb Yates Engineers
Quantity surveyor N E D Consultants
Design engineer PipSqueak Developments
Main contractor Varbud
Cad software used MicroStation + SolidWorks

Slate Cabin by TRIAS

Equinox epic retreats 038

Equinox epic retreats 038

Mimicking the art of constructing cairns, whereby walkers collect stones and build place-markers along their route, a raw, unclad building will be gradually transformed through layers of slate, forming a textured exterior.

In contrast to its grey slate exterior, inside you’ll find a single room clad with honeyed wood. A kitchen and built-in table form a sitting space, while the bed sits on a raised platform providing a view of the surrounding scenery.

Project data

Location Castell y Bere, Wales
Architect/designer Concept design - Jonathon Donnelly + Jennifer McMaster; project delivery - Rhys Wright + Rosie Hewett
Gross internal floor area 13.8m²
Materials Recycled slate, birch plywood
Construction cost £11,000
Main contractor RBW Carpentry
Cad software used Rhino

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