A small humble dwelling of simple construction especially made of natural materials.
A small house or shelter usually made of wood or metal.
I am fascinated by the primitive. The more my life gets submerged by technology, moronic repetitions and the curse of being constantly connected to virtual people the more I crave the primitive. The primitive is a condition often associated with existence and synonymous with the antithesis of modernity, in other words a scorned existence of little interest.
I am drawn to the primitive as a primordial condition, a form of anthropology in reverse which reveals the mysteries of daily existence, the paradoxical experiences that are at the same time blatantly obvious and cryptically obscure. A state of mind where one is at peace with the surrounding habitat stripped of all technology.
Urbanity, the city and architecture have all lost their relationship with the primitive. As the world develops we are inundated with more and more technology, science and design. Everything aspect of human existence from a coffee carton to a housing complex has been scientifically engineered and designed to guarantee maximum human interaction. I can't face it!
Fortunately for all us prehistoric humans there still remain traces of primitive existence and dwelling in the form of cabins. The cabin is a temporary form of dwelling, an enclosed space molded to a specific individual or group, a space created to disconnect you from the reality we live in. Importantly the cabin lies outside any understanding of a system (or network) as it does not relate to context but lies or sits within the context.
Cabins become places for the mind to dwell, a “thought home” – a contemplative and spiritual room where stories and mysteries live and are formed. Here are five different types of cabins that have remained tattooed in my existential retina.
1_Kim Ki-Duk's Cabin in the film “Arirang”
The renowned Korean film director Kim, Ki-Duk escapes into an isolated cabin deep in the Korean countryside. The cabin becomes his new microcosm, where human contact is substituted by relationships with inanimate machines: the coffee machine, the fire stove, the gun and even the camera lens all become actors in Kim’s cabin. Talking to lifeless objects allows him to develop different persona, rather than create imaginary characters it is his own character that shatters into multiple pieces which he (aimlessly) tries to glue back together.
This is a single room cabin, with a single door serving a single man. A space where thoughts can change state from solid ideas to liquid dreams and to eventual vaporous conclusions. Like in physics the cabin becomes the latent energy required to allow these ontological phenomena to take place.
2_Cabannon Roquebrune-Cap Martin, France by Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier was possibly the greatest architects of the 20th Century; his influences are everywhere to be seen in today’s cities from Paris to Seoul. Cabanon is a diminutive of the French word for 'cabin' and surprisingly is the only building he ever designed by the great architect for himself. It sits buried into the foothills of the French Rivera overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and is marked by its brutal sparseness. It was designed to accommodate only le Corbusier and his wife, and is a completely tailored building much like a Savile Row suit.
The exterior of the cabin does not exist; it is simply a byproduct of the interior space. The interior consist of one room 3.6 m square with a bed, table, and toilet all made from basic plywood. It is a form of miniature architecture where space has been crafted in the same manner that a watch is made, where each element is carefully assembled to form part of an overall instrument. This is a cabin to draw, write and ultimately imagine the new world of tomorrow, it is no coincidence that it is so primitive.
3_“Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murukami
The central character in Murukami’s book “Kafka on the Shore”, a 15 year old boy who escapes from home finds himself, by a series of coincidences, catapulted into cabin in the middle of a forest. The cabin, itself reminiscent of the cabin described by the American transcendentalist author Henry D. Thoreau’s in his book “Walden”, is a place for solitary existence - "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
This solitary existence stimulates the boy’s imagination that begins to run wild. Every miniscule change in the surrounding environment stimulates his subconscious; forest sounds become speaking people; the pounding rain on the corrugated roof become beasts trying to enter his soul, the poor boy is trapped in another world. The only cure, the only escape are the books in the cabin. Books on history, science, mythology, sociology, Shakespeare… the boy reads slowly entering a state of state of nirvana, a calm, natural and complete place.
4_Giacometti Atelier, Paris
Alberto Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor and artist, moved to Paris during the 1920’s and started developing a unique style of sculpture often associated with existentialism where the human figure is elongated, stretched and warped into a sort of lumped stick person.
His cabin in the heart of Paris, squeezed between two domestic buildings, was an interstitial urban cabin. The skewed and warped timber door acted as a portal to a location where time froze and wall/floor/ceiling all merged into one. This cabin more than an artist’s atelier is a room that creates new form of space. “Giacometti space” is a colourless, dripping space where objects hover defying gravity as if the air has a different density. Today, sadly the atelier no longer exists but its intensity is permanently recorded in the relentless and mesmerizing line drawings produced by Giacometti that capture the ephemeral air of this unique cabin.
Martin Heidegger was a controversial German philosopher (1889-1976), known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being." His Mountain Hut, close to the town of Todtnauberg deep in the German Black Forest is a timber chalet surrounded by idyllic mountains.
The cabin screams of normality, its existence is perfectly in balance with its surroundings and the building creates a unique balance, a sort of rhythm, with its context. In many ways the cabin reminds me of the existential feelings one experiences when visiting traditional Korean hanok: where roof, wall window and porch are all scaled to the human and deeply rooted to the ground.
Heidegger’s hut is neither solely a place nor just a building but a space for people to dwell. Materials are used and conceived for what they are, the walls are tangible- made from the forest timber, the linen of the bed expresses the weave and the door handle feels cold when you open the door.
Primitive existence far from being a regression to some outdated mode of living is a search for what existence really is. The cabin, the most basic form of dwelling is a reminder of what dwelling can evoke if you strip it of all its nostalgic, futuristic, romantic connotations. Before starting the day stop and place your fancy coffee cup into the palms of your hands and try and feel the warmth of the water. If you can then you should start looking for your cabin, if on the other hand you can’t just take out your mobile phone and forget about this article.
Photographs by Peter W. Ferretto