Rural Office for Architecture and Waind Gohil + Potter are among eight winners in a competition for a series of portable ‘hotel rooms’ to be built in scenic locations across Wales
Barton Willmore, Timber Design Wales, London-based How About Studio, Francis & Arnett, London’s Miller Kendrick Architects and Sydney’s TRIAS were also chosen for the Epic Retreats project.
The anonymous competition, open to architects, designers and artists, sought innovative proposals for £11,000 mobile units suitable for overnight ‘glamping’.
‘Glamping’ – luxury camping – has introduced hotel-style amenities to the traditional outdoor pursuit.
The eight ‘pop-up’ hotels will be constructed in three yet-to-be-announced locations in Wales, providing accommodation for up to 200 holiday bookings next year.
The project is backed by the Welsh government, and coincides with Visit Wales’s 2017 Year of Legends cultural programme, aimed at boosting tourism. Earlier this month the programme re-launched a contest to design and build two landmarks commemorating Welsh national legends.
Ken Skates, Wales’s cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, said: ‘Wales’s tourism strategy emphasises the need to create high quality and distinctive accommodation for visitors to enjoy.
‘The arrival of Epic Retreats and its unique glamping pods will allow people the chance to experience Wales like never before. From art hotels and castles to trendy hostels and boutique B&Bs, Wales offers a wide array of varied and exciting accommodation choices.
‘The addition of our first pop-up glamping hotel creates additional potential to attract visitors from far and wide to experience our amazing landscape and heritage.’
Proposals for the cabins were required to make use of Welsh materials and must 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.
The cabins also needed to feature a shower, compost toilet, king-sized bed and mattress, basin, seating area and wood burning stove.
The eight winning designs
Arthur’s Cave by Miller Kendrick Architects
This design is inspired by the legend of King Arthur and a cave where he and his knights slept while travelling – it is said it could be discovered once but never again.
Locally sourced sheep’s wool insulation will be placed within the panels to provide a high level of thermal insulation and the build benefits from a full width sliding door to offer panoramic views of the Welsh landscape.
Winner: Arthurs Cave by Miller Kendrick Architects
Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture
This unusual structure is inspired by France’s failed attempt of a British invasion through Fishguard back 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.
Winner: Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture
Cabin in the Woods by Francis & Arnett
This nature-inspired building sits on legs high above the ground and explores the theme of the ‘animated forest’ shaping the Welsh landscape. Inspired by the poem Cad Goddeu, meaning ‘battle of the trees’, from the medieval Welsh manuscript known as the “Book of Taliesin” the unit will be developed to give the impression of movement.
Its highlights include a padded sleeping area and a stove area with featured chimney above, as well as a box window designed to catch the morning sun to wake travellers naturally. It will use raw materials derived from the Welsh landscape including timber, steel, slate and leather.
Winner: Cabin in the Woods by Francis and Arnett
Dragon’s Eye by Timber Design Wales
Inspired by the legend that is the Welsh dragon, this eye-shaped pod could fool passers-by into thinking such a creature was hiding in the great outdoors.
The walls will be covered with recycled plastic cut in the shape of a dragon’s scales. And the cabin features a wet room and Hungry Penguin wood burner for cooking and heating.
Winner: Dragons Eye by Timber Design Wales
Little Dragon by Barton Willmore
This vertical unit celebrates the best Wales has to offer.
The three prongs represent the dragon’s foot, the overall design is inspired by Wales’s famous industrial past and the steel door displays the country’s iconic Celtic knotwork.
The layout features a sleeping area upstairs and panoramic glazing at both levels provides for magnificent views across the Welsh landscape.
Winner: Little Dragon by Barton Willmore
Miner’s Hut by How About Studio
This cabin is a tribute to the Wales’s mining industry – a Welsh legend that spans generations and landscapes across the country.
Visitors are invited to enter the cabin by crawling through a small tunnel, allowing them access into an angular corridor space only lit by borrowed light.
From here they can follow a glow of light from the main space which extends to the full available height with large windows that provide scenic views of the great outdoors beyond.
Visitors must return into the tunnels to discover the washroom and to climb a flight of steep steps to the sleeping area, from where they can enjoy panoramic views from their bed.
Winner: Miners Hut by How About Studio
SKYHUT by Waind Gohil + Potter
As a country, Wales has the highest percentage of sky designated as an ‘International Dark Sky’ area making it one of the most outstanding places in the world to stargaze.
The SKYHUT is designed to provide a unique place to experience the sky, taking its inspiration from Cadair Idris where legend states that travellers sleeping out under the night sky awaken as madmen or poets.
The tradition of sleeping out under the night sky is manifested in the roof with a simple geared cable system; borrowed from proven sailing technology, allowing it to open fully.
With the doors open too, the SKYHUT can be configured as a glamping-observatory.
Winner: SKYHUT by Waind Gohil + Potter
Slate Cabin by TRIAS
This cabin is based on the material Wales is built on, and of – slate.
The cabin is a single room with a bathroom tucked behind. A kitchen and built-in table frame make up the sitting space, while the bed sits on a raised platform – at one end, this platform pulls back to provide space for a seat and desk.
Winner: Slate Cabin by TRIAS