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Freya’s Cabin at Kielder Water

 

If the English weather deigns to give us a summer this year, maybe you’ll want a break from it all and head out into nature. One good option is the rugged beauty of Kiedler Water and Kiedler Forest Park in Northumberland. Here you’ll discover that the English countryside is not all about the huntin’-fishin’-shootin’ set, cute cottages and fetishised stately homes. In fact, you might even have a fairy-tale encounter, especially if you chance upon Studio Weave’s intriguing Freya’s Cabin at Kielder Water.

Somewhere between architecture and installation art, this highly aesthetic structure is hardly pedestrian. Its golden appearance belies a timber structure clad in an alloy – actually copper is the real secret here– that gives it a gleam worthy of a magical realm. Sure, it has basic practical functions like providing temporary shelter and an excellent vantage point across the countryside on popular walking trails, but the architects’ approach was much more like envisaging it as set design; a grand outdoor theatre where they created a structure intended to convey the narrative of two fictional characters they created. Even if the unsuspecting ramblers might not learn of the story of the fictional characters Freya and Robin, its fairy-tale aspect has immediate impact; an architectural reaction to a magical landscape.

This strand of working with fictional narratives to create architecture that stands outside of our daily expectations of what buildings might be is something of a signature for Studio Weave. Working with writers to create stories that subsequently generate structures is not confined to Freya’s Cabin and the close-knit team at Studio Weave never seem far away from fairy tales.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is their selection as one of ten finalists chosen from over 450 entries for the Hans Christian Andersen House of Fairytales, an international competition set-up by the Danish Architects’ Association and Odense City Museums. Should their ethereal design be realised, Andersen’s historic house, the memorial hall and two existing townhouses will be linked by 13 new fairy-tale houses scattered across a magical garden created in the space between them. These will house a café, shop, galleries, artist’s residency space and a fairy-tale viewing tower.

Meanwhile, back at Kiedler Water, as you gaze over the lake, drawn into the romantic world of Freya and Robin, perhaps you’ll discover that Kiedler Water is a reservoir, the largest artificial lake in the UK and, indeed, that Kiedler Forest Park is the largest manmade woodland in Europe. This makes it exactly like so much of Britain’s ‘natural’ beauty, the product of a country that went crazy for grand Romantic landscaping projects. Studio Weave’s work exists in a conscious lineage of a particularly British tension between longing for a wild, untamed world of otherworldly forces and a tendency to create it if it doesn’t exist. Freya’s Cabin exists fundamentally in the tradition of the folly. But what a lovely folly it is.

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