In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Freya and Robin

Freya’s Cabin and Robin’s Hut are physical manifestations of a love story embedded in the stunning landscape of Kielder Water and Forest Park, which is home to the largest man-made body of water in Europe and surrounded by commercial forest.

As part of the Kielder Art & Architecture Programme, we chose two sites with the client on either side of the lake and through our proposals sought to create evidence of an imagined fairytale, forming a playful and magical link across the water. 

The structures peer at each other across the water, and provide visible markers and stopping points for walkers and cyclists, enhancing a sense of place along the Lakeside Way.

We have embraced the man-made nature of this seemingly rural context and considered the site a stage set against which we could tell a story. 

By developing a narrative about Freya and Robin, their characters have guided and informed design decisions from beginning to end, proving an effective forum for architect, client and fabricator to collaborate.

So the story goes (which can be read in full on the column opposite), Robin built himself a simple wooden structure clad in timber shingles, close to the edge of the woodland among fir trees and rocks, where he loved to climb trees and play with the woodland animals. On the other hand, Freya modelled her cabin on her flower press, with foxgloves at the entrance and an enchanted forest ceiling of twisted branches tickling each other. When she feared Robin was rowing away without her, she cried tears of gold and wrapped them around the cabin’s exterior.

In reality, the pavilions also meet technically demanding requirements, including all-year-round accessibility, robustness for constant public use and resistance to extreme weather conditions.

The project has been recognised in the Wood Awards and the European Copper in Architecture Awards. It was even chosen as a perfect spot for a marriage proposal!

In the freezing weather in winter 2009-10, Freya’s Cabin enjoyed her first White Christmas. Here she is in her peaceful white dream…

… and snuggling down against the cold.

Not so long ago, not so very far from here, there lived a beautiful lady named Freya. Freya loved flowers. She loved the Wood Aven with its little strawberry flowers that smell like Christmas and protect against evil. She loved the Red Campion with their hoof-like petals stretching from the tips of magenta pods, decorated with tiny white curls. But most of all, she loved Foxgloves, tall figures dressed in soft bells, some in pink, some in white, and some spotted with the fingerprints of elves. Freya liked to think of the foxes ringing the bells to warn each other of danger and insects sheltering from the rain under their gentle parasols.

You could find Freya wandering across the moors wearing long dresses with big soft pockets full of flowers she’d collected. She carefully took her pickings home, and pressed them for keeping and to decorate everything around her.

Not so very far away from her, lived Robin. Robin lived in a wooden hut in the woodlands over the water from Freya. He spent his days walking through the woods, looking after the trees and the animals that lived in them. He liked climbing trees and building little wooden houses for the birds to lay their eggs in. He dashed about the forest playing swift and intelligent games with the deer and scrambled about helping the squirrels find their buried nuts.

Freya could see Robin across the water. She could see he was kind and careful with the trees and the animals and that he loved them as much as she loved the flowers. Mostly, he skipped about playing, but sometimes, Freya saw him standing, perhaps sadly, she thought, looking out over the water. She longed to be able to talk to him, to ask him if he was all right or what it was he was dreaming of. So one day, Freya decided to make Robin a gift of a wonderful cabin. She hoped that he would see the cabin from his wooden hut and then maybe he would make a raft or a boat and come to see it.

Over the next few weeks, Freya worked very hard to collect flowers and plants and small branches. She made a big flower press and carefully laid out her collection in the shape of a woodland, just like she imagined the one Robin lived in. For the walls, she arranged the strongest branches from thick to thin. And for the roof she made an enchanted forest ceiling with twisted branches tickling each other. She decorated the entrance with precious Foxgloves to invite the fairies in. Then she pressed everything tight together so they would be strong and crisp and last forever.

While she was making the cabin, she noticed that Robin spent more and more time dreamily looking across the water. She was thrilled for she thought he must be looking to see what she was up to. She was so excited that she went and collected as many tall, straight flowers as she could find and proudly balanced the cabin up on a thousand of the tallest straightest stems to be sure that Robin could see it properly. But Robin couldn’t see it properly; he couldn’t see it at all.

Freya lived on the South side of the lake, which meant that the sun’s rays lit up the landscape in front of her and she could see for miles. But Robin lived on the North of the lake, so when he looked towards the South the sun got in his eyes and all he could see was a golden blur above the lapping blue lake.

Then one morning, he untied the boat from its mooring, and set off. Freya watched expectantly as Robin rowed towards her. She felt she had never been so happy and excited in all her life. But after a short while, he seemed to be drifting away to the west and soon Freya realised that he wasn’t coming her way at all, but instead, was going in completely the opposite direction.

Freya couldn’t understand what she could have done so wrong. Not only did Robin not want to come and see the cabin she had made for him, he wanted to leave the lake completely. She sat down in the middle of the garden she’d planted by the cabin and began to cry. As Robin rowed further and further away, she became so upset, her tears turned into gold. She picked herself up and wrapped the cabin in the gold tears streaming from her eyes.

Meanwhile, as Robin was rowing away, he turned his head to look back at the lake he loved. He hoped everyone would be all right while he was gone. As he watched the familiar woodland slipping further and further away, knowing that he might not see his home for a long time, he noticed something glinting in the distance. He thought it must just be the sun in his eyes, but as he took one last glance, he saw it again, even brighter. He was so curious that he decided to row back and find out what it was. After all, he hadn’t gone too far yet.

As he approached the glimmering, it grew brighter and brighter and he rowed with all his might. Once he was quite near the shore he could see an unusual golden cabin that looked like it had a forest inside it. Then once he was very close, he could see that next to the cabin, someone was sitting and crying with her face buried in her dress. Robin quickly tied up his boat, rushed over, and gently swept the foxgloves so they sang soothingly. Freya lifted her head at the sound and saw Robin standing there with a concerned look on his face. A little embarrassed, she brushed the tears from her eyes and they fell like gold dew onto the surrounding grass. Robin offered his hand and she unruffled herself as he pulled her up. Seeing she was all right, Robin turned to the golden cabin. He was quite enchanted by it. Freya explained that she’d made it for him. Luckily, he had climbed inside for a better look just before she said this, so she didn’t see him blush!

Freya and Robin sat in the cabin all afternoon, talking about the trees and the flowers. Robin almost forgot he was planning to go to find Glimmerfell. He described to Freya, the cloud-collared mountains and the glowing ice-flowers. Freya was fascinated and asked him lots of questions he didn’t know the answers to because he hadn’t been there yet. Freya offered to lend Robin her flower press so he could collect some flowers to bring home. Robin said he wouldn’t know how to press the flowers properly and asked whether Freya would perhaps, like to go with him. Freya said she would love to.

So at sunset, having loaded Robin’s boat with some more food and Freya’s flower press, they set off on their adventure.

They didn’t leave very long ago, so they are still away adventuring, but if you can find them, you can see Robin’s wooden hut and the golden cabin that Freya made for him, facing each other across the lake, awaiting their return.