Although known as one of the most idyllic areas in Spain, the Catalan Pyrenees are also known for their rugged landscapes and harsh winter climate, both of which make construction very challenging. Barcelona-based firm Agora Arquitectura recently took on this challenge by building the Weekend Shelter — a tiny, minimalist cabin constructed out of carefully-selected natural materials that make the structure extremely resilient.
At just 430 square feet, the Weekend Shelter was designed to be a part-time refuge set in the remote area of Isòvol, Spain. The region is known for its breathtaking landscapes and extremely harsh winters, which are marked by heavy snow and rain. Accordingly, the shelter’s construction is a complex combination made out of resilient and sustainable natural materials that can withstand the test of time.
The structure was prefabricated off-site to save on construction costs and minimize environmental impact. Once the prefab pieces were delivered on-site, the cabin was assembled quickly. The first step was to elevate the structure off the landscape to protect it and add a flexible option to move the shelter in the future if necessary.
The shelter design consists of three thermal layers. First, the frame of the structure is made out of concrete blocks to help create a strong barrier from snow and moisture. Then, a shell of oriented strand board was used to cover the main frame. To add an extra layer of resilience, the exterior was then clad in panels of expanded corks and topped with a rubber membrane, again creating an impermeable shell.
Three large sliding glass doors lead to the interior, which is flooded with natural light. The interior walls, ceilings and flooring are all covered in sustainably-sourced plywood panels, which, according to the architects, help provide great thermal and acoustic protection to the living space.
Throughout the structure, the cabin counts on several passive strategies to reduce its energy use. Being oriented towards the south ensures that the interior is illuminated by natural light. The glass doors are double-paned to limit heat loss during winter. Additionally, wrapping around the front walkway is a simple system of roll-up shutters that allow the residents to fully control the amount of shade and sun that enters the living space.
Photography by Joan Casals Pañella