The Cabin Owner’s Soul
Until recently, I really wasn’t that conscious of the so‑called second home phenomenon—that is, cabins and cottages being so very popular in Czechia. My family didn’t own a cabin or a cottage when I was little. On holidays, we stayed with our grandmother in a remote village in the Central Bohemian Highlands, or in turn, our Moravian cousins paid us a visit for a few weeks in the summer.
My opinion of vacation homes changed when I met my wife, who as a kid, unlike me, spent her free time frequenting several family cabins. Gradually I began to understand this type of weekend and vacation activity.
Czechs reputedly own more holiday cabins per capita than any other nation globally. And the buildings say quite a lot about their owners, their social status, relationships, taste, or education. A Todtnauberg cabin owned by the philosopher Martin Heidegger is one of the best known examples abroad. Professor Adam Sharr even published an essay about it (Heidegger’s Hut, MIT Press, 2006). Another one is Le Corbusier’s Cabanon in the French Riviera, presumably the smallest UNESCO building to date.
In Czechia, cabins are almost never designed by architects. The owner usually puts on the architect and the client hat, both at the same time. But lately, a growing number of these small-scale structures are starting to show the marks of an elaborated, professional architectural design, while keeping their modest and do-it-yourself style. In this edition of ERA21, we’ll showcase a few of them.
Small Is Beautiful
We decided to have a look at other types of small‑scale architecture, besides cabins or shelters, like footbridges, lookouts, or small sacred structures. Sacral architecture has had an important place in the Czech landscape since time immemorial and today, often built with private money, it helps restore lost meanings. As Michaela Hečková writes, small architecture often hides a big story. Prominent architects are paying it due attention, too, because they finally understand that there are no small parts.
After two serious topics we have decided to give you some lighter reading for the summer, presenting small structures of different types and places. The issue can serve as a vacation travel-guide, if and when we start travelling again, instead of vacationing each weekend at our cabins.
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