Rising like a tree out of rich volcanic ash soil is the Shangri-la Cabin, the first structure in a series of mountain cabins in Las Trancas, Chile. Architect Nicolas del Rio of the Chilean architecture firm DRAA designed the geometric cabin that’s clad in timber inside and out and punctuated with large windows. Built of prefabricated structural insulation panels, the compact cabin boasts minimal site impact thanks to its elevated footprint, which also gives the dwelling a treehouse-like feel.

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Completed in 2016, the Shangri-la Cabin was created in close collaboration with the owners, who directed the construction process and enlisted the help of local workers. Not only did the owners work on assembling the metal stairs and railings, but they also charred the exterior wood siding with the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban to protect the cabin exterior from decay and pests. “All these tasks [were] learned through years of DIY experimentation and pod prototypes on land and sea” the firm explained.

Topped with a sharply pitched roof designed to shed snow, the one-bedroom cabin spans three split-levels across 45 square meters of space. A concrete base lifts the living spaces three meters above ground to immerse the inhabitants in the tree canopy. The use of timber throughout — from the charred pine exterior to the interiors lined with planks from locally felled trees — tie the architecture to its heavily forested surroundings. The prefabricated SIP boards and their 212-millimeter polystyrene core provide high-performance insulation, while the layout with the air-lock entrance helps keeps out unwanted chills.

Related: This cozy cabin in the woods was once just an old tool shed

A small parking pad below the cabin connects to the main living areas via outdoor stairs. The entrance opens up to a small foyer with a sliding pocket door that separates the entrance from the bathroom and bedroom, also concealed beneath a pocket door. A couple steps down from the bedroom level lies the eat-in kitchen anchored by a wood-burning fireplace. A ladder leads to a sitting space that overlooks the kitchen. The architects said, “Cabin Shangri-la is a collaborative project that mingles in the wood with simplicity and respect for nature, surprising the strollers with a bold, geometric and structural proposal.”


Images by Magdalena Besomi, Felipe Camus