An A-Frame Eco-Cabin in Brazil Rises Among Towering Palms

The Monkey House, named for the capuchins that swing through the trees, offers visitors a lofted view of the rainforest.
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As the pandemic began to gain steam last year, Brazilian architect Marko Brajovic received numerous requests from friends for an eco-friendly refuge where they could safely isolate and reconnect with nature. Brajovic, who has designed several sustainable homes in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, took up the challenge—in spite of material and labor shortages related to COVID-19.

"We designed the Monkey House as a place to connect with yourself and other species, a kind of portal," says Brajovic, who named the cabin after the area’s rebounding capuchin monkey population, which had suffered from a yellow fever outbreak a few years ago. "Walking up the staircase, you can observe the whole micro-ecosystem that is organized from the bottom to the top of the trees and how the different species interact with each other. It’s all about cooperation in nature."

The Monkey House is located in a secondary forest in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest that had been used as a banana plantation decades ago. Brajovic has turned the area, which is located on the border of Bocaina National Park, into an ecological sanctuary called Aldeia Rizoma that’s now home to several eco-friendly homes.

Located 15 minutes from the small coastal town of Paraty in southeast Brazil, the property includes nearly a quarter-mile of waterfront with natural pools and waterfalls as well as hiking trails.

Now also available to book on Airbnb, The Monkey House is an exercise in low-impact design with a small footprint of 16.5 feet by 19.5 feet. The goal, says Brajovic, was to "grow" the 925-square-foot house vertically between the existing trees with zero interference to existing vegetation.

Galvalume metal panels are used for the roofing and sides to protect against corrosive tropical conditions.

"In order to design the support structure of the Monkey House, we were observing which plants were better adapted to the topography of the land and which strategies were adopted to allow stability in height growth," explains Brajovic. "The juçara, or içara in Tupi, is an endemic palm of the Atlantic Forest which is structured through prop roots, adapting itself to the downhill terrain and distributing the dynamic weight on multiple vectors, ensuring stability for the thin and very tall stalk."

Inspired by the juçara palm roots, the architects elevated the Monkey House on a series of thin, 15-foot-tall pillars placed at one meter intervals. The cabin rises to a height of 58 feet.

Inspired by juçara palm roots, the cabin is elevated atop a series of thin concrete pillars that measure 60 centimeters by 60 centimeters each.

The Monkey House comprises three floors with a living area and kitchen on the first floor, the primary ensuite on the second, and a vaulted observatory space on the topmost level that’s open to the outdoors.

Black metal stairs lead up to the entrance.

The view from the kitchen towards the main entrance. Large windows throughout the cabin blur the line between indoors and out.

The kitchen on the first floor features a Garapera hardwood countertop with a Mekal Workstation integrated sink and a Docol faucet.

In addition to minimal site impact, the environmentally friendly cabin processes wastewater with a biodigester, uses cross-ventilation and passive strategies for natural cooling, and will soon be powered with renewable energy harnessed from a hydro turbine. The architects also added more than 100 native juçara palm trees, bromeliads, and ferns to the site to strengthen the sense of immersion in nature.

The interiors are dressed with an eclectic collection of furnishings sourced from around the world, from a Piauí handcrafted hammock and Indigenous Guarani handicrafts to a modern Tok&Stock chair and a Japanese futon from UK-based Futon Company.

The open-plan living area on the first floor includes a futon sofa that folds out into a double bed. A family trunk was repurposed into the coffee table.

The primary bedroom on the second floor has a double bed. The curtains are made from repurposed fishing nets.

A look at the bathroom with a glass shower on the second floor.

Two side terraces flank the second-floor bedroom.

"Our main challenge was building during the pandemic," says Brajovic. "We only had three construction workers, who all came from the nearby community. We also needed to pay special attention to social distancing and hygiene when working." Since suppliers were no longer delivering equipment or scaffolding, nor offering transportation to the site, the team got creative in designing their own support systems.

Construction on the Monkey House began in June 2020 after a three-month design period and was completed in November last year.

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In addition to design influences from nature, the cabin also draws inspiration from Indigenous Brazilian architecture, particularly from the climate-responsive homes of the Guarani community. "The Monkey House roof, the side wall proportions, cross-ventilation, and indoor materials and decorations were inspired by Guarani design," notes Brajovic.

The Monkey House is primarily built of timber and natural fibers, similar to the homes of the Indigenous Guarani community. Note the handwoven bamboo panels on the doors.

Garapera, a tropical hardwood, is used extensively throughout the cabin, including the ceilings, floors, walls, stairs and exterior for a unified appearance.

"Seen holistically, the Monkey House functions as an integral and synergetic object that interacts with the environment," says Brajovic. "My favorite part—and where I like to spend the most time—is on the top floor, where you can observe the trees moving in the wind, the birds, the monkeys, and all the species interacting with the dynamics of life."

The top floor can also be used as a meditation space or yoga room, and has a ceiling height of nearly 23 feet.

The Monkey House is available to rent on Airbnb.

Monkey House drawing

Monkey House roof plan

Monkey House first floor plan

Monkey House second floor plan

Monkey House third floor plan

Monkey House front elevation

Monkey House side elevation

Related Reading: 

This Carbon-Negative Cabin in Ecuador Sits Lightly in a Tropical Paradise

A Brazilian Couple’s Prefab Cabin Is the Perfect Outpost for Forest Bathing

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Atelier Marko Brajovic / @markobrajovic 

Builder/ General Contractor: Hybrida Production

Structural / Civil Engineer: Atelier Marko Brajovic

Landscape / Interior Design: Atelier Marko Brajovic

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