Tucked away in the Spain’s Parc de Collserola, a secluded nature area just outside of Barcelona, a striking wood-and-glass structure known as the Voxel is made of materials primarily culled from its site. The small-but-functional space was recently completed by a team of students and researchers at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia’s (IAAC) Valldaura Labs, as part of the Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities (MAEBB) program.
Under the direction of Daniel Ibáñez and Vicente Guallart, the 2019–2020 MAEBB class designed and built the 130-square-foot "quarantine cabin," which they executed in just five months as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students worked with an array of experts to transform local timber into "structural and thermal material" for the project using sustainable forest management practices. The result is a fully equipped, eco-friendly living space where a single occupant can self-isolate for up to 14 days.
At the start of the project, the students harvested 40 pine trees near the site to be used for the construction. After allowing the wood to dry for three months, they moved the raw material to the Valldaura campus to be processed into thin layers, or lamellas, which the students then pressed to create cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels for the cabin.
Every lamella of every panel was tracked and traced," notes the team. The students took this measure to ensure that each wooden element of the house could be tied back to the site of the tree where it came from.
In order to use less metal for the construction, the team relied on lap joints and wooden dowels to hold the panels together. After wrapping the cabin with a layer of cork insulation, the students used the Japanese shou sugi ban technique to create "a burnt wooden skin" for the exterior, which is intended to help protect the building from rain, the team explains.
On one side of the cabin, an exterior ladder leads to the roof, which features a series of garden boxes, three solar panels, and a funnel for rainwater. A self-contained biogas system facilitates graywater recycling and blackwater treatment while also generating cooking and heating fuel, as well as sanitary fertilizer.
In addition to the energy provided by the cabin’s solar panels, the space is also equipped with a battery storage system that’s specifically designed to accommodate a single resident for up to 14 days.
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Inside, the Voxel presents a minimal, wood-clad aesthetic. The same local material is used to create all of the furniture, which includes a platform bed, desk, dining table, and kitchenette.
The innovative design of this off-grid cabin is characterized by a focus on hyperlocal materials and industrialized building techniques. Fittingly, the IAAC students describe the Voxel as "visceral proof of a forthcoming ecological architectural paradigm."
Project Direction: Vicente Guallart and Daniel Ibañez
Academic Coordination: Michael Salka
Construction: Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities students, class of 2020: Alex Hadley, Anfisa Mishchenko, Sena Kocaoğlu, Camille Garnier, Dania Aburouss, Ester Camps Bastida, Filippo Vegezzi, Giada Mirizzi, Juan Gabriel Secondo, Maitri Joy Uka, Camila Fajardo, Nathalie Botbol, Shreya Sharma, Yue Zhang, Zhiqian Liu, Rafael Abboud, Irene Rodriguez Perez
Management: Laia Pifarré
Sponsored by: Saltoki, Miogás, Mausa, Distribució Sostenible, Bestiario, Henkel, Cork 2000, Tallfusta
Guided by: Oscar Aceves, Miquel Rodrigues, Jochen Scheerer, Elena Orte, Guillermo Sevillano, Eduardo Chamorro, David Valldeoriola, Miguel Nevado, Jordi Prat, Gustavo Escudero
Assisted by: Bruno Ganem, Luis Leveri, Akshay Mhamunkar, Daniel Nahmias, Layth Sidiq, Kya Kerner
Photography: Adrià Goula
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