‘Transparent’ cabins offer glimpse of accommodation future

Blink and you’ll miss it. Picture: Carly Coulson.

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cabin has a conservation-first design and a zero energy, zero waste, zero water approach. 

Disappear Retreat in Grand Marais, Minnesota, is here to help you slip away for a weekend of stargazing and R&R with absolutely no impact to the picturesque environment in which it’s situated.

The transparent cabin is all about simple living, and dissolves its impact on the earth both physically and aesthetically.

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The off-the-grid, 8sqm dwelling uses passive design solutions to eliminate the need for heating and cooling systems and drastically reduce energy use.

Disappear Retreat cabins

Disappear Retreat makes working remotely a joyous experience. Picture: Carly Coulson.

Thin-film photovoltaic technology integrated into the south glass wall generates all solar energy required for the cabin. It’s compact, eliminating unnecessary heat loss through surface area. Air-tight and insulated, the capsule will never drop below 15°C, no matter how chilly it is outside.

“Passive solar heating through the glass roof and walls is utilised in the winter, modulated in spring with insulated shades, and blocked in summer by trees and shades,” writes Coulson, the architecture firm behind the design, on its website.

The materials featured in the cabin have a very high insulation value with minimum thickness (i.e., triple-pane insulated glass units and VIPs (vacuum insulated panels) for the floor and walls).

Disappear Retreat cabins

An integrated plumbing system consists of grey, black and potable water tanks. Picture: Carly Coulson.

By investing in passive, integrated elements like insulation, the performance of the building will last its lifetime (50+ years) – even in the extreme cold-climate conditions of northern Minnesota.

While prototypes are currently in the build and testing phase, designer Carly Coulson expects the cabins to be available for public purchase as soon as 2019.

“Our passion for the environment is not just technical, but extends to the experience of nature, which is an essential inspiration in our design work and life,” Carly says of the design on the firm’s website.

“We want to insinuate into the landscape and live seamlessly and lightly with its mysterious beauty.”

Disappear Retreats

Spend an evening under the stars. Picture: Carly Coulson.

And beautiful it is. Disappear Retreat blends seamlessly into the landscape with a “jewel-like form” and a mirrored glass exterior, which reflects the terrain surrounding it.

There are currently three versions of the portable abode: A bed and bath with a storage-laden bed, toilet, sink, shower, fridge and induction cook top; a basic model which maintains an open-plan space for art, meditation or an office; and a sauna model with built-in benches and a sauna heater.

From the cabin, you’ll be able to look up to a spectacular view of the galaxy above and the Northern Lights through a frameless, glass roof.

A minimal colour palette ensures that the surroundings stay the focus of Disappear Retreat, and offer a meditative experience similar to that of the outdoors, but with all the comforts one would ever need.