The Huba mountain shelter has generated a fair bit of press since it won first prize in the Projekt Arting design competition last year. The compact cabin – whose clean lines and futuristic angles make it a futuristic version of a warming hut – is unlocked via cell-phone and powered by a wind turbine.
Michal Holcer and his partner MaÅ‚gorzata Blachnicka designed Huba after personal experiences while traveling. Holcer was born in Cracow, Poland, and is currently studying industrial design, working with companies such as Volkswagen and BMW. He took a few minutes to talk about his thoughts when designing Huba.
How did you decide to start the project?
I’m passionate about new technology and its implementation, product development based on real needs, and possibilities of global progress. I am fascinated by means of unconventional transport and the use of alternative energy sources. Huba is a private, non-commercial project, a bit conceptual, a bit critical. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road, and although traveling itself is something very pleasant, there are many aspects which work in an old fashion way – in wrong way, not always as smoothly, as you wish. When you think about the world from the perspective of design, that is to say analytically, you get an opportunity to look at various aspects of life in a new way and come up with new solutions.
How did you come up with the design?
I started thinking about Huba on vacation in southern Europe. During trips, we rarely stay in one place for a longer time, we like to change our surroundings. Unfortunately moving around involves dealing over and over with many unpleasant aspects of traveling, so a lot of time you could spend relaxing you have to spend on organization. That was the beginning of our idea, the core problem – a problem which we decided to approach through design. How do you make traveling more seamless, minimize the unnecessary factors that take time and fun away? We decided to take a closer look at the existing scheme – there are car and bike sharing systems and many other options for short-term, quick, and easy use. Why not try to move a similar philosophy to the world of tourism?
After a short brainstorming we developed a basic design assumption: to provide users a simple, secure registration system, where small shelters can serve as a unified series of accommodation at different stages of travel. After registering online, a user will get access to information about each of Huba’s resources and the ability to book shelters for a night. Unlocking Huba upon arrival will be possible using a physical membership card or mobile phones with NFC technology.
What were some of the design characteristics you considered?
Personally, I’m disgusted by big hotels and complexes of apartment buildings, which mar landscapes. I don’t go out of town vacation to live in a concrete block surrounded by other concrete blocks.
During our holidays, we kept the concept just as the notes, written on my knee on the train. Looking at the notes again later, new ideas of functional, aesthetic, and technological solutions came to mind. We decided to forget about the era of mass spa centers and concrete holiday resorts. We were inspired by typical mountain architecture — low, simple, and wooden, with sharp angles and character, but also with respect for the environment.
We spent long time on every detail: interior places to relax, necessary sanitary equipment, ways to generate energy, and materials to be used. To really get inside of our design, we adapted the part of our terrace as an improvised model of Huba. Of course, most of its elements still existed only in our imagination, but having something we could touch showed showed us where to pay special attention.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
The core idea of having Huba available for public use – requiring trust in its users – required compromises/ simple and robust solutions. We had to figure out how to provide water and electricity. We chose to use a vertical wind turbine. Such turbines are simple, cheap, and durable (conversely, delicate and expensive solar panels do not meet these requirements). Compared to regular windmills, they’re also are less harmful to birds. In case of damage, two parts of Huba’s power module can be separated and repaired.
What is Huba made out of?
The shelter is made of fragments from wind-fallen trees, including its insulation. The Power Module is made of recyclable plastics in a process called rotomolding. The energy is stored in the battery and supplies the heating, lighting, and pump. A special arrangement of roof tiles enables collecting rainwater by leading it over the roof into the tank. A metal buckle, located on the side-wall, allows you to secure sports equipment.
Once we’d decided what we need to include for the shelter’s function, the form became obvious. We can say that our design assumptions did not give us much choice. We did not spend a lot of time on considerations. We went quickly from the ideas to sketches, from sketches to a quick scale model made of cardboard, and then to the 3D model, which was used later for visualization. The dynamic character of the structure’s interior is formed by intersecting planes, without right angles. Small windows run along the side of the building, breaking up the walls with narrow streams of light. The shelter provides four resting places, including two hanging beds hidden in the wall, a washbasin, and also a built-in water heater.
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.