There’s something otherworldly about this jet black cabin emerging from the canopy of a dark Finnish forest, its roofline rising to an irregular point. Fittingly, design studio Ateljé Sotamaa named it “Meteorite,” conjuring mental pictures of a space rock that crash-landed and then revealed itself to be hollow, its interiors just waiting to be explored.
Contributing to its awe-inspiring presence is the fact that it’s three stories tall – certainly not the kind of modest structure you’d expect to come upon while walking in the woods. Designed as a vacation home for a Finnish-born client who now lives in California, the stark modern cabin is visually inspired by its setting in remote Kontiolahti, within rocky terrain full of jagged boulders.
This sense of drama is integral to the experience, according to the architects. They want visitors to glimpse it through the trees as they approach on foot, wondering what on earth this “mystical dark object” could be. Its facade is entirely inscrutable by night, and in the daytime, it’s no less mysterious, albeit a little less intimidating.
The polyhedron-shaped building is made of prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, a relatively new innovation in the world of engineered lumber that’s extra strong and lightweight, enabling timber buildings to take on all kinds of shapes and sizes. The thick wood walls are also air-insulated, and all functional and utility elements are disguised within them for a minimalist effect. Even the roof is made of solid wood, oiled to protect it from the elements.
Meteorite’s interior is enchanting in a whole different way, lined with pale wood and brightened up by natural light. Transparent acrylic railings along the stairs and landings add to that sense of airiness, while hardware-free black cabinetry is set within the walls to create a visual anchor. A central atrium rises all the way to the top floor, where a 107-square-foot skylight provides unobstructed views of the stars. A net on the third floor even offers a built-in hammock for lounging, reading, and napping.
“Meteorite is not a large house, but on the inside it represents a completely new 3-dimensional open-concept way of organizing living space,” says Ateljé Sotamaa co-founder Kivi Sotamaa. “Unlike traditional houses where each room has a specific predetermined purpose, Meteorite’s architecture supports more dynamic relationships of its residents and a variety of life situations. Digital design and new prefabrication and construction technologies enable the creation of unique, aesthetically high-quality ecological wood buildings that add experiential value to their locations.”
Client Ulla-Maaria Koivula, who’s the founder and CEO of education technology provider ThingLink, had the cabin built on her grandparent’s old homestead. It was initially envisioned as a vacation home that would be visited a few times a year, but due to the pandemic and California wildfires, the family decided to live in it full-time and work from home.
”Every building materializes our relationship with the natural environment,” Koivula says. ”My inspiration to have a unique wood house built in this country sprouted from the rocky hills and rugged woods of Koli, rich in erratic boulders that also served Finland’s defense during the Winter War. Meteorite reflects the connection my soul has to Finnish nature, and looking through one of its large windows to the misty fields around takes me back to the calm days of childhood.”
“We use the house as a creative space for remote work, hobbies, and hanging out together. In the old days, families gathered into a large horizontal kitchen space to be together. We now interconnect vertically with each other and with the surrounding nature. In this time and age with effective telecommunications and speed trains to the metropolitan region, this is a paradise for us to get settled into the good life.”