Located next to a woodland swamp at Rapla, Estonia and raised on 7-meter-high stilts, Maidla Nature Resort is a tiny treehouse-style retreat for just one or two visitors. It offers simple hospitality suited to current pandemic conditions. This breath of fresh air for resort design has been nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – the Mies van der Rohe Award.

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wood cabin in snowy forest

Maidla Nature Resort is designed for maximum durability. It’s not so easy to drive a builder’s van through this delicate landscape for maintenance, so all materials are tough and locally sourced as much as possible. Dark brown thermo-treated, ash-wood walls blend in with swaying birch trees. The treehouse is covered with terraces designed to make the most of the sun’s path over the course of the day. The lower morning terrace captures the early light; gigantic steps lead to the roof, and a night terrace at treetop height is perfect for enjoying sunsets, stargazing and birdwatching. 

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wood cabin in green forest
wood cabin with large wood deck

Built from timber found onsite, the building has an irregular shape with several triangles pivoting around the sleeping area. The bedroom provides panoramic views of the dreamy landscape. A wood-burning fireplace forms a focal point and ups the comfort factor. The 28-square-meter space can be divided by drapes to form a bedroom and a separate work or rest area with sofas. The compact bathroom features floor-to-ceiling mirrors and an incineration toilet, meaning no waste enters the surrounding ecosystem.

fireplace in corner between two glass walls
bed facing glass walls with forest views

Architect Mari Hunt of b210 finds it remarkable that Estonia has selected the project to represent the country. “Large-scale public buildings are usually nominated for the award, to represent the public and well-known face of European architecture,” Hunt explained. “We tried to create a space that would remind people of their connection to nature, the fragility and value of this link that is already disappearing in many places.”

wood room with bed in the center
small sofa and table in front of fireplace and two glass walls

Owner and author of the idea, Ragnar Sass, traveled extensively and was inspired by the way architecture can transform a location. His tiny hotel, built in a completely secluded area where guests are more likely to spot elk and foxes than people, allows visitors to really come close to the untouched Estonian bog landscape. Sass knew that Hunt would create something really special.

stepped wood terraces on the roof of a wood cabin
glass and wood cabin in snowy forest

“Getting Mari to work with us at Maidla was the best choice — she’s been designing and tutoring projects that magnify Estonian nature for years,” Sass said. “The forest megaphones in Pähni, the floating sauna project in Soomaa — once we started looking around, she’s the best at getting architecture to have a conversation with the nature around it.”

aerial view of diamond-shaped cabin in snowy landscape
aerial view of diamond-shaped wood cabin in a forest

The high-profile Mies van der Rohe Architecture Award is given biennially by the European Union and the Fundació Mies van der Rohe to acknowledge and reward quality architectural production in Europe. Each member state nominates a small selection of architectural projects.

wood and glass cabin lit from within at dusk

Today, when over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, opportunities to connect with and spend time in the outdoors will be more and more sought after. Locations such as Maidla Nature Resort can provide city dwellers with a welcome respite and chance to connect with nature.


Photography by Priidu Saart and Tõnu Tunnel via b210