Deep inside Norway’s Finnskogen, a forest region on the Swedish border, two tiny structures have been perched up among the treetops, waiting to provide a delightful getaway to nature-loving travellers. The PAN Treetop Cabins, named for the panoramic views they provide of the forest, were both built from the same plans, designed by Oslo architect Espen Surnevik.
Also a professor at the Oslo School of Architecture, Surnevik was brought in to the project by young entrepreneurs Kristian Rostad and Christine Mowinckel. The clients wished to use their enchanting property, where they also have a small farm, to create a real wilderness retreat.
In attempting to design something that would be unique to its site, respecting and relating to all the natural elements – from the smallest plants, to the rocky terrain, and up to the tallest trees – Surnevik found inspiration in a number of sources, including Finnish artist and writer Tove Jansson.
The area, whose name translates to “Forest of the Finns,” has a storied history of Finnish settlers. Jansson’s work, including her famous Moomin cartoon characters, draws heavily from the Nordic view of nature and civilization’s relationship with it. Surnevik also borrowed from the simple A-frame cottages he’d seen in North America, and from an even more unusual typography: the fire towers that keep watch over forests around the world.
To lift the 40-square-metre A-frame cabin up of the forest floor, structural engineer Finn-Erik Nilsen helped customize a braided steel frame, anchored to four concrete pillars. The design of each frame was specifically adjusted for the two unique floorplates, which stand about 100 metres apart.
There’s no need to worry about hauling your bags eight metres up a rope ladder here though. A more comfortable climb is provided with a spiral staircase that sits next to the main structure. Wrapped in a metal mesh tower and capped with a flat roof that keeps the egress protected from the elements, the stairs link to the cabin’s pinecone-patterned metal roof via a wood and metal pedway.
Inside, either gable is glass walled to provide those inspiring views. The cozy, pine-wrapped interior is simply and efficiently furnished, comfortably sleeping up to six thanks to a loft with a king-sized bed, a double sofa bed, and two drop-down upholstered benches built into the walls. The textiles are all natural wool in soft greens and greys – tones that can be glimpsed in the scenery outside.
A tiny wood fireplace, heated floors, a full kitchen and a bath with rain shower all together ensure that the treetop cabins are enjoyable year-round, for short or long stays. The one thing they don’t have? WiFi. After all, if you’re busy scrolling through Instagram, you might miss some of the woodland creatures that might happen by (the area is home to healthy populations of elk, deer, capercaillies, wolves, lynxes, and even bears), or the world’s best views of the Northern Lights.