Hybrid Cabin Incorporates 'Animal Architectures' To Boost Local Biodiversity

An architect combines home and office as a multifunctional approach to addressing socio-ecological concerns.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects exterior

Luis Díaz Díaz

As the current climate crisis continues to deepen, a number of personal and collective mitigation strategies are becoming clear: we need to change the way we eat, shop, think about waste, and how we build and maintain buildings. The list goes on, but that last item in the list is a really important one, as it's estimated that buildings are responsible for 39 percent of global energy related carbon emissions, with 28 percent coming from their operation (heating, cooling, electricity) and 11 percent stemming from materials and construction. Beyond these practical considerations, one also has to ask how can future low-carbon buildings be designed and constructed in a way that boosts the biodiversity and resilience of local ecosystems?

It's a difficult but vital question, one that architects like Diego Barajas of Madrid, Spain-based Husos Architects are trying to answer. One of the firm's latest projects, a hybrid home and office for Barajas and his partner, attempts to design for biodiversity by incorporating various animal-friendly architectural interventions, in addition to maximizing the small space through the use of multifunctional furniture and rooms.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects exterior
Impresiones Cotidianas

Dubbed (Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode, the project is located in a housing development that is surrounded by a pine forest. The cabin aims to reduce the ecological footprint of suburban housing, and serve as an example of how buildings can be designed with biodiversity in mind – in this case, coexisting harmoniously with the local populations of birds and moths, says Barajas via Dezeen:

"Our approach to the natural environment has been through a socio-bioclimatic cabin as well as other, small animal architectures for birds and bats that feed on a defining agent in this ecosystem: the pine processionary moth."

To reduce its overall footprint, the cabin features a series of multipurpose spaces with convertible furniture, as well as maximizing the use of defined outdoor spaces, explains Barajas:

"We designed the house to be transformed to encompass the various different uses of a larger house within a relatively small footing. First, we did that by rethinking domestic spaces such as the bedroom or the roof, parts of the home space [that are] often underused; second, by multiplying its uses by means of designing a few easily transformable furniture pieces; and third, allowing for domestic life to occur within varying degrees of interiority and exteriority."
(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects
Luis Diaz Díaz

To achieve this flexibility, the cabin's interior includes three main spaces: first, an office that doubles as a bedroom, thanks to a foldable bed that's hidden in a discreet headboard-like cabinet at one end of the room.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects bedroom
Impresiones Cotidianas

Sliding mirrored doors help make the space look bigger, while also hiding some storage space behind.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects bed
Impresiones Cotidianas

That same office space can also function as a dining room, once the desk is cleared and the table is set. This kind of prioritizing of different functions really helps to make smaller spaces more feasible and efficient, as studies have shown that dining rooms are one of the least-used spaces in a home.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects dining
Impresiones Cotidianas

Here is the kitchen, outfitted with all the basics like a sink, induction cooktop, and a full-sized refrigerator, plus plenty of custom-built cabinetry for storage. Everything in the home is clad with oriented strand board (OSB), a type of engineered wood product that is cheaper and supposedly more eco-friendly than plywood. The home is framed with pinewood, sourced from responsibly-managed forests 155 miles (250 kilometres) from the site.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects kitchen
Luis Diaz Díaz

Beyond providing a space to cook, the kitchen also doubles as a living room, thanks to the informal seating arrangement made possible by moveable armchairs and a coffee table.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects kitchen as living room
Impresiones Cotidianas

Overlooking the kitchen via an operable window is the cozy sleeping loft. Below the sleeping loft is the bathroom.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects sleeping loft
Luis Diaz Díaz

On the cabin's roof is a mini-amphitheater of sorts, which can be used for projector movie nights, or as an "open-air living room" for quiet contemplation.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects rooftop movie night
Luis Diaz Díaz

Scattered around the cabin are some of those "animal architectures": little boxes for birds to nest in.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects birdhouses
Impresiones Cotidianas

In addition, the outdoor deck that connects to the kitchen's glass patio doors are meshed off, to prevent birds from crashing into them.

(Synanthro)Love Shack, (Tele)Working Abode by Husos Architects meshed patio
Luis Diaz Díaz

For Barajas, the project interweaves interrelated social and ecological concerns:

"This project is an exploration of designing according to a concept we have been working with for years, namely, 'interwoven architecture', based in Latin-American de-colonial feminist thinking, in which environmental and social issues are understood together. If we look at the history of the colonization of the biosphere, we can see that the violence against nature and other species has often been accompanied by other forms of violence towards our own species, towards racialized people, women, non-heteronormative bodies and others. It is not only about inclusion of different forms of existence; but also, about the search for other, less painful, more pleasant ways of living."

Ultimately, this interwoven approach presents one example of how architecture can integrate a wider, intersectional socio-ecological consciousness beyond practical materials or operational benchmarks. To see more, visit Husos Architects.

View Article Sources
  1. Edwards, Brian, et al. "Biodiversity: The New Challenge for Architecture." NBS, 2021.