HGA perches cedar-clad cabins on a forested hillside in Minnesota

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These wooden dwellings by HGA Architects and Engineers sit atop concrete piers on a sloping site in a Minnesota woodland (+ slideshow).

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

Located 48 kilometres from Minneapolis, the three cabins are built on a hillside in the Whitetail Woods Regional Park, a 185-acre parkland that includes forest, wetlands, hills, and attractions including hiking and ski trails.

Each cabin is 21 square metres, and has a seven-square-metre wooden deck.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

Built atop concrete piers to minimise the impact on the landscape, the cabins hover up to five metres above the ground. Surrounding trees help create privacy.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

"The concept for the cabins riffs on the idea of a treehouse, but instead makes them accessible to all by building 'houses in the trees' that can be entered from a bridge at the crest of the hill, along adjacent ski and hiking trails," said HGA Architects and Engineers, a large firm based in Minnesota.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

The boxy volumes feature a wooden frame, red cedar cladding and a sloped roof. "Dark cedar shingles on the exterior blend seamlessly with the beauty of the pine forest while the interior is stained naturally to create an immersive warm environment," said the firm.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

The architects used finishes made from organic, environmentally friendly stains and sealants that contain natural resins and gums extracted from tree heartwood.



Inside, each cabin has two full-size bunk beds, built-in storage, and areas for sitting and dining. The dwellings are designed for four occupants, although a sofa bed can accommodate two additional guests. A communal bathhouse is located nearby.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

On the rear wall, which faces the deck, floor-to-ceiling glass frames views of the forest and serves as a focal centrepiece.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Paul Crosby

Each cabin has electricity and uses natural ventilation to maintain a comfortable interior temperature.

"A small wall-mounted electric heater, along with ceiling fan and natural ventilation, condition the space from season to season with ease and efficiency," said the firm.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Peter VonDeLinde

The cabins were built by employees of Dakota County with the aid of high school students in a vocational training program.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Peter VonDeLinde

Members of the public are able to rent the dwellings for approximately $60 per night (£43).

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Photograph by Peter VonDeLinde

Other recently completed cabins include a series of wooden dwellings by Felipe Assadi in Patagonia and a pair of weathering-steel cabins on the Navjao Reservation by students and faculty in a university programme.

Photography is by Paul Crosby and Peter VonDeLinde. Drawings are courtesy of HGA Architects and Engineers.

Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Site plan – click for larger image
Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Floor plan – click for larger image
Whitewail Woods cabins by HGA
Section – click for larger image
  • Smugitecture

    Simple, cost-effective, site appropriate, and easily built. Very nice.

  • Leo

    Very nice. I like the wood, the sloped roof, the exterior materials. “Environmentally friendly” doesn’t seem to be standard English.

  • Spring Smith

    Delightful! What a beautiful project. Refreshing use of colours and the staircases.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Good looks, but calling them tree houses is quite a leap for a house with no room for a basement under it.
    I imagine occupants learn after the first night to keep a pee can in the room.