It’s the stuff of fairy tales: As if by magic, a cabin appears in the woods. The apparition is JCPCDR Architecture’s L’Observatoire—i.e., the observatory—a 150-square-foot hut in Annecy, France, born when firm founder Jean-Christophe Petillault realized how quickly his studio was growing. Hoping to bring various teams together on a single project, he encountered the perfect prompt—Le Festival des Cabanes, a cabin-design competition held annually in the mountainous region that encompasses the Annecy and Aiguebelette lakes.
A full three months of design and development later, L’Observatoire was named one of 18 winners. Over the course of two days, Petillault and company fabricated the hut completely by hand using fir native to the region. Through November, hikers can visit it and even venture inside, snaking through the 14-foot-long interior via a ramp that starts at ground level, pivots 180 degrees at midpoint, and culminates at a platform some 5 feet above-ground. As the incline progresses, the walls and double-pitched roof transition from opaque to slatted, gradually exposing the visitor to breathtaking forest and lake vistas. The cabin, Petillault says, “provides a moment of pause” to visitors, encouraging them to view the landscape from a very deliberate vantage.