New Ascetics

by Fred Abler

Something small is happening. A generation of young people have come down with ‘cabin fever’. The viral vector spreading this fever is a tumble-log called Cabin Porn. If you haven’t heard about it yet, well… you just did.

Cabin Porn is a visual atlas of cabin typology – dilapidated cabins from the last century, spanky new cabins, lake cabins, remote cabins, slab-cabins. Cabins, shacks and huts, small… and even smaller.

Fig 1. Image of a hiker’s hut near Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand.  Submitted by Greg Brown. Stress heads at work can now visit their ‘quiet place’ online at Cabin Porn.  DSFW – Definitely Safe for Work.

The Blogging-sphere has enjoyed round speculation as to why Cabin Fever is upon us. Everything from ‘urban hipster angst’, to ‘channeling your inner-Thoreau’, or simply the ‘need to find a quiet place’ have been proposed.

But in an age of high-tech and high anxiety, it’s unsurprising that cabins are revered for their perverse simplicity. And this renewed appreciation signals an important and improbable aesthetic shift –  a return to the poetics of space.

“…the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

                                                           Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

The Poetics of Space is a phenomenological exploration of how we experience intimate spaces. The French philosopher and author provides a dense, magical, and literary curation of the lived experiences of small spaces – the cellar, attics, cupboards…even the poetics of housekeeping.

Poetics’ is one of the few literary works that is required reading for architects. It provides a deep understanding of psychological sanctuary and recalls the spatial imagination of childhood.  Having read it, you will never look at ordinary spaces as.. ordinary again.

The need for psychological sanctuary is core to the growing Minimalist Movement – the desire to declutter, downsize, and de-stress our lives. For these new ascetics… small is beautiful, and small homes have become ‘the guardian of their identity” (De Botton).

Fig 2 and 3 – This Finish micro house ‘Nido’ (Nest in Italian) built by a designer in Finland for $10,000 and labor. 3D Model (above) and rendering (below) by Alan Fraser, FormFonts 3D Models.
Some Minimalists have even started living in their cabins. Finish Designer Robin Flack recently built a micro house that is only 96 square feet – small enough to be built without a building permit in Finland. With help from some local architects, this Robin.. built his own nest.

It’s Sunday!  Why not take your dog, a beat-up old thermos full of good coffee, a good book .. find yourself a quiet place, and re-create.

Perverse simplicity – the new aesthetic for New Ascetics.  Is it The Architecture of Happiness? You decide.

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