As he was sketching guest dwellings for the vast Ontario wilderness retreat Arcana, which boasts access to more than 15 kilometres of private trails, Vancouver architect Michael Leckie considered making a version of the yurts or tiny houses that have become synonymous with back-to-nature tourism. “It was a breakthrough to not create distinctive formality [like] a pitched roof or a black box,” he recalls.
Instead, the cabins take the shape of a pair of rectilinear 27-square-metre volumes outfitted like studio apartments with maple, pine and oak interiors and finished on the exterior with reflective stainless steel. “We wanted to make the experience of the cabin one of ambiguity and awe and wonder,” says Leckie, who is also a co-founder of Arcana. “The mirrored cladding blends in and is immersed in the landscape.”
Arcana is founded on nature’s ability to regenerate humans physically and spiritually. Becoming one with the forest is not only an architect’s parti, then, but also the driving force behind the entire hospitality concept. Meal kits are delivered directly to guests, who may complete a recipe in their individual kitchenettes or over the outdoor firepits that accompany each cabin. Hiking trails incorporate signage that points out monumental trees and other features.
“We’re trying to make things as easy as possible for guests, so that a majority of their time is spent outdoors,” explains Felicia Snyder, another co-founder and co-CEO of the brand. (In all, there are eight co-founders — including Alan Gertner of Canadian cannabis brand Tokyo Smoke — who make decisions collaboratively.) Arcana’s reservation policy of a minimum two-night stay was even established with time in mind.
Because tapping the power of nature requires a receptive attitude as well as an open schedule, other aspects of the Arcana stay were conceived to shift perspective. Each cabin’s exact location is not disclosed until two days prior to check-in, while, on site, the so-called Analog Pavilion expressly excludes Wi-Fi. If digital detox doesn’t offer sufficient psychic reset, then perhaps a visit to the freestanding sauna and cold plunge can enable reconnection with one’s elemental self. Still distracted come nighttime? A meditative sound journey might help; instructions for the custom soundtrack are tucked into the bedding.
Leckie says that successive biophilia studies validate the care he and his partners have devoted to each particular of the guest experience, noting, “We find ourselves so wonderfully poised in this moment.” Arcana’s booking data alone confirms that there’s something to a life in the woods. The Ontario location, which guests have kept secret so far, is sold out through June 2022. Snyder says there are plans for dozens of additional sites as they scout new possibilities throughout North America.
Arcana is designed to get you away from the digital realm and into the natural one.