Obsess Over Woodsy Design Elements at Vancouver Art Gallery’s “Cabin Fever” Exhibit
Explore the aesthetics of cabin culture and the human relationship to place.
“Cabin Fever” may have opened to the public over a month ago, but the popularity of this rugged and romanticized aesthetic is timeless. Vancouver Art Gallery’s newest exhibit traces the tradition and cultural identity of the cabin in North America through a collection of architectural models, drawings and plans, photographs, historical documents and literature.
The various collection of art forms are spread throughout the gallery in three parts: 1. Shelter, introducing the cabin as a way of life providing basic needs and connection to nature, 2. Utopia, cabin lifestyle as an escape oasis and cure to modern day stresses, and 3. Cabin Porn, the exploration of outdoor aesthetics into modern mainstream culture.
Whether or not the outdoor lifestyle appeals to you, it’s hard to deny that cabin culture has influenced the design of everyday life. Through clothing trends, interior design, architecture, and the importance of connecting with nature—the past and present come together to show the cabin’s evolution throughout the years. Get ready to obsess over these woodsy themes that make the visit worth it, and are sure to live up to the exhibit’s name—inspiring a contagious enthusiasm about this popular form of architecture and lifestyle.
It’s underwhelming at first. When you pay to see art, you want to see more than framed photographs of something you would rather explore in person. But with the patience that comes with reading about each piece, you quickly discover that these aren’t just ordinary cabins. From the futuristic UUfie Lake Cottage to Olson Kundig’s Delta Shelter, interactive elements keep you intrigued—through videos of how the perfectly charred cedar was made, or a 3D mini model of an indestructible steel-clad home on stilts. There are plenty of designs to stare longingly at as you start imagining the build of your own dream cabin in the woods.
Excitement starts picking up with life-size models of micro homes and replicas of architectural frames. Walk through the door-less all-white houses the size of an apartment bedroom (resembling the remote abode of Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber), or look through a window into the interior of a cabin full of survival necessities—an ode to the unattainable past of a more primal existence. There’s even a designated area for what the modern cabin lifestyle really reminds us all of: horror. Take a seat on the rustic couch in a dark room of the gallery and watch gory scenes project on the wall above a flickering television to take part in this film industry trend. What’s more Vancouver than that?
What started as an inspiration board turned Tumblr blog in 2010 by former Vimeo co-founder, Zach Klein, is now an internet sensation for lovers of nature and outdoor explorers (Cabin Porn). Based on the architectural form that has been used to sell everything from maple syrup to children’s building blocks, apparel brands like North Face, Pendleton, Filson and Canada’s beloved Roots now participate in the cultural fetish—flannel, warm socks, backpacks, leather and camping tools in colours that represent a simple, sustainable way of life.
These brands all tell us that wool socks and Birkenstocks aren’t just for camping anymore. The clothing trends of the outdoors are now available for anyone at any time to mimic the comfort of the cabin experience and prepare to explore the natural landscape of our nation’s identity. No longer is a cabin simply a cabin, but an architectural obsession that symbolizes the deeply personal human relationship to how a place can help us connect with nature and each other.
Vancouver Art Gallery
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (Tuesdays until 9 p.m.)
Exhibition runs until September 30
Purchase tickets HERE