Mountain Retreat, an earth-sheltered modern cabin | Fearon Hay
Mountain Retreat is a stone and concrete cabin dug into a mountainside on New Zealand’s South Island. It was designed by Fearon Hay Architects as a year-round retreat for a young family. The entry approach to the small cabin is from above, with only the gravel-covered roof visible. Suddenly a stone staircase appears, leading visitors down to ground level on the downhill side. The low boxy form of the building is visible from there, appearing like a fortified bunker set into the slope. Clad with roughly textured local schist stone, the cabin blends into the rugged landscape.
The rugged look and feel continues inside where the stone gives way to exposed concrete walls and floors. Entry to the cabin is directly to the open kitchen/dining/living area. The architects wanted to create a “sense of living in the landscape”, and so the two outer walls are almost entirely glass. The glass panels slide away to completely remove the barrier between inside and out. The roof is cantilevered over the living area with no support columns to interrupt the views of nearby Lake Wakatipu and the adjacent mountains. With the landscape taking precedence, the interior finishes were kept quite subdued.
There are two bedrooms in the 100 m2 (1,076 ft2) cabin. One opens directly off the living room, and the other, a bunk room with four bunks, is tucked behind the kitchen. A spacious bath, with two sinks and separate shower and bathtub, occupies the back corner of the cabin’s floor plan.
Although fairly remote, the retreat is on the electric grid. However water is taken from a nearby stream and filtered for drinking. Heating is provided by a modern fireplace hanging from the ceiling, with backup radiant heat in the concrete floor slab.
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Photographs by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Fearon Hay Architects.
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