iceland is the land of opposition–being the most active volcanic region in the world, it is also home to the largest glacier in all of europe. founded by vikings and for the longest time in history, one of the poorest countries in the world. it also boasts one of the highest literacy rates, along with an amazing cultural tie to reading and literature that extends to present day. furthermore, lush winding rivers move through green fields and merge with hot springs while a short distance away some of the most barren tundra terrain waits patiently for exploration; and all of this manifests itself within a relatively small island country.

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
construction worker looks on as a cabin is lifted in place




the icelandic trekking cabins by school studio look to not only become a temporary respite along your journey but also strive to become a platform of contrast to view the contextual curiosities of iceland. by reinterpreting the traditional building style and heritage of icelandic turf houses, these cabins transition this architectural typology to a new form that frames modern views of iceland. the icelandic cabins reinforce this dichotomy by mimicking the situation that makes iceland so breathtaking in the first place. by inhabiting the interstitial space between the extremities of a mountain/hill, it replicates the icelandic conditions. this theory then carries through at all scales; material, programmatic, and contextual, and therefore becomes a physical representation of old to new.




suited for any place in the icelandic remote highlands, the structure is additionally scaled to a size appropriate for prefabrication and transport by truck bed close to the site, which can then be airlifted in. once at the site, a singular pier foundation is used to create a dynamic cantilevered structure that respects the icelandic hiker code by disturbing as little of the land as possible unlike traditional icelandic architecture, which buries itself into the land, due to construction costs and limitation on non-specific location, these cabins respect the land by completely opposing it.

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
an open plan allows maximum adaptability of the interiors 




with the project suited for a slope, the structure is given clear direction. with optimal views only on one side of the structure, the program components are laid out with the most public and open spaces on the furthest cantilevered edge. this allows the baths, mechanical, and storage elements to be concealed on the hillside. the vaulted center point at the entrance address both the necessity for walking clearance and also formally represents old icelandic turf homes. this creates the sectional quality where you enter through an old icelandic turf home and slowly transition to an expansive modern square view of the icelandic terrain.

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
a snowstorm obscures the visibility of a small group of cabins 




the exterior is a concrete panelized system, allowing easy replacement, long durability, and emphasizes the sectional concept and quality of the cabins through its vertical joints. the interior is completely clad in a sustainably harvested nordic birch wood. this wood is meant to appear as the deforested birch wood of old iceland and gives the structure an immediate historical connection. the exterior concrete, relating to modern icelandic building techniques then transforms to old historic iceland on the interior, reinforcing the architectural concept in the wall section. by making the concrete sleeve connection temporary, this enables the addition and subtraction of cabins at any point in time. therefore, the cabins can be contextual modified for future eruptions, new popular trails, and removal of undesirable locations that fit the current desires of the visitors and population.


with a dynamic structure and pragmatic design, the trekking cabins respect iceland’s untouched wilderness while providing a new relationship and typology for hikers to experience the geographic curiosities of iceland’s remote highlands.

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
the interior ceiling lifts up at the edge for panoramic views

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
the lighting scheme reinforces the conceptual idea and guides hikers in low visibility

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
concept development and diagrams

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
floor plans, section and plan diagram 

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom

school studio trekking cabins remote highlands iceland designboom
exploded axonometric systems diagram



project info:


purpose: entry for the icelandic trekking cabins competition hosted by BeeBreeders

company: school studio

team: kyle bigart

program: trekking cabin sleeping 1 to 5 hikers

location: iceland, remote highlands; any sloped site.

year: august, 2016



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: juliana neira | designboom