11 unique edible plants for your garden

June 14, 2019 by  
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Part of the joy of gardening is falling in love with the plants you choose to nurture, especially those with a tasty reward. While the traditional carrots and raspberries certainly have their place, you can create a yard full of unique, yummy and eye-catching produce when you select plants that are a little less traditional. The produce department at your local supermarket might have a few dozen choices, there are actually hundreds of fruits and vegetables that you may have never even heard of, let alone considered growing. While some require special adaptations, such as tropical weather, most are just as easy to grow than the mainstream selections. Here are some examples to get you started. Jujube If you’re in USDA zone 5-9, check out the jujube. This is not the beloved candy by the same name, but the candy was inspired by this small, apple-like gem. Jujubes offer a sweet and sour flavor and can be eaten raw, although the sugars intensify when dried. Jujubes like hot, dry environments and tolerate drought quite well. Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food Pawpaw Another heat lover is the pawpaw, similar to tropical fruits like the related cherimoya and custard apple. Happy in zones 5-9, the pawpaw doesn’t do well on a commercial scale, but is a great addition to a backyard garden . The plants itself is a small, uniform tree that produces pleasant foliage. Quince You may have heard of quince jam or seen it on a menu at a restaurant, but few people actually grow quince themselves. At one time, quince trees were as ubiquitous as pear and apples and rightfully so since it is related to both. Quince must be cooked for eating, but the reward is equivalent to apple pie in a single fruit with flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of citrus. Quince grows well in zones 4-9. Cattail Did you know cattail is edible? If you have a pond area be sure to include this plant in your design. Young stems can be eaten raw and young flowers can be roasted. In midsummer, the pollen from the cattail can be used as a type of flour in pancakes and breads. It also works as a thickener for soups and sauces. Young shoots on the plant can be cooked like asparagus by roasting or grilling. They can also be added to stir-fry for a distinct flavor. Chocolate Vine Less tropical than other options, the chocolate vine can even tolerate substantial amounts of shade. Best in zones 4-9, it produces sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and long pods later in the summer . The pods can be cooked like a vegetable but should be avoided raw. Before you toss them in the oven though, pop open the pod and scrape out the pulp, which resembles a banana/passionfruit custard that can be eaten directly or mixed with other fruits. Edible Flowers In addition to those traditional and non-traditional fruits and vegetables , remember than many flowers are edible too. This makes for many exciting options for your yard, even outside the designated garden gate. Include nasturtiums, violas, pansies, borage, and calendula in your landscape and you will have a cornucopia of salad greens at your fingertips. Maypop If you love passion fruit, but don’t live in the tropics , try this American cousin instead. Happy in zones 6-10, this vine not only offers a delectable fruit, but also produces large colorful blooms in the form of purple and white blossoms. Haksap More commonly known by a variety of names in the honeysuckle family, haksap produces a delicious sweet-tart berry that tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a raspberry. Almost as great as the tasty treat it produces is the gift it provides with its delicate downward trumpet-shaped blooms. Make sure to plant at least two of the same type of haksap together for effective pollination . Medlar Medlar is an ancient fruit, even though you may have never heard of it. For thousands of years, dating back to at least the Roman era, this small deciduous tree has produced small edible fruits. Related to roses, the one to two-inch fruit resembles large rosehips. The color is a rosy brown. For a commercial product, the medlar is a bit finicky since they have a very small window of the perfect ripeness for consumption. For the backyard gardener, though, your challenge might be picking them at the right time before the animals pluck them for you. Medlars adapt well in climates with hot summers and wintry winters. Red Meat Watermelon Radish While the flavor is similar to the traditional radish, the look is anything but. It’s a bit of a mind game when picking the small radishes off the plant, which look nearly identical to a spotted watermelon at 1/1000 the size. Red meat radishes are a cool weather crop and will bolt if planted when it is too warm. Serviceberry Placed right up next to your garden, trees, or perennials, serviceberries add a lively texture to your landscape and produce a yummy, yet non-commercial, fruit for your backyard enjoyment. Serviceberry grows well in a variety of zones because there are different varietals of trees and shrubs. It is a versatile and durable plant, growing wild in many areas. Plant it right up next to the house or in soggy areas of the yard where other plants are unhappy. Watch for the berries to ripen, which resemble blueberries in size and shape. Images via Shutterstock

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11 unique edible plants for your garden

Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

June 14, 2019 by  
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Innovative design start-up Six Miles Across London Limited (small.) has just unveiled an emergency shelter made almost entirely out of upcycled plastic bottles . The Recycled BottleHouse is a pyramid-shaped shelter that was constructed from a bamboo frame covered in discarded plastic bottles. Recently debuted at the Clerkenwell Design Week, the innovative shelter is an example of how a truly circular economy is feasible with just a little design know-how. Related: MIT students find a way to make stronger concrete with plastic bottles Designed to be used for emergencies in remote parts of the world, the Recycled BottleHouse shelter is made out of low-cost, lightweight and sustainably sourced materials and built to be thermally comfortable. The frame of the structure is made out of thin bamboo rods joined together in the form of a tipi. The frame is then entirely covered with discarded plastic bottles filled with hay to provide privacy to the interior. For extra stability, the shelter flooring is made out of bottles filled with sand that are burrowed into the landscape. Next, hollow bottles are placed around the main bamboo frame to create four walls with a front door that swings upward. Inside, the space provides protection from both solar radiation and precipitation. The interior also boasts a lantern made from plastic bottles powered by the shelter’s integrated PV panels . According to small. founder Ricky Sandhu, the emergency shelter was inspired by the need to find feasible and sustainable solutions to the world’s growing plastic problem. Sandhu said, “We believe ‘BottleHouse’ provides a new formula for the world’s growing problem of discarded plastic bottles by transforming them into rapidly deployable, protective and valuable shelters in areas of the world that need them the most and, at the same time, setting a new mission for the rest of the world to think about and contribute to — a new circular economy .” + Six Miles Across London Limited Images via Six Miles Across London Limited

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Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

June 13, 2019 by  
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In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources , eco tourism and reforestation. Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming , the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes. “The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.” The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?” Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy. + EETJ Images via EETJ

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Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

Ending animal exploitation in tourism with World Animal Protection

June 13, 2019 by  
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World Animal Protection works internationally to end the suffering of animals and urge all people to do more to protect our furred, feathered and scaly friends. World Animal Protection (formerly World Society for the Protection of Animals) works on many fronts— including wild animals, farmed animals and those suddenly displaced by disasters. Ontario-based campaign director Melissa Matlow talked to Inhabitat about World Animal Protection’s work to end the exploitation of animals in the name of tourism. Inhabitat: How and when did World Animal Protection first get involved with educating tour operators about animal attractions? Melissa Matlow: World Animal Protection has been campaigning to protect wild animals that are suffering for tourism for several years now. More than 20 years ago we started working with local partners to bring an end to bear dancing in Greece, Turkey and India, and bear baiting in Pakistan. We have been working to protect the welfare of elephants in Asia since 2005. In 2015, we launched the Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign globally and working to influence the tourism industry became one of the organization’s priority campaigns. We decided to shine a spotlight on the problem of elephant riding first because it is one of the cruelest activities and tourist demand is fueling the poaching of elephants from the wild. In 2017 we released our Taken for a Ride Report , which reviewed the welfare of nearly 3,000 elephants used for tourism in 220 tourist venues in six countries (Thailand, India, Nepal, Laos, Sri Lanka and Cambodia). We discovered that the majority of these elephants (77 percent) were living in grossly substandard conditions. Related: Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism Inhabitat: Can you tell me a little bit about the TripAdvisor campaign? Matlow: We showed TripAdvisor our research into the animal welfare and conservation impacts of Wildlife Tourism Attractions (WTA) and how wildlife lovers were unknowingly causing harm to animals by participating in these activities. Tourists were seeing and buying tickets to cruel attractions that offer elephant rides and tiger selfies on TripAdvisor and leaving positive reviews. After more than half a million people joined our campaign and signed our petition asking TripAdvisor to stop selling cruel attractions, they listened and announced in 2016 their commitment to stop selling some problematic attractions and set up an educational portal for people to learn more. Inhabitat:  What other tour operators and companies has World Animal Protection worked closely with?                    Matlow:  World Animal Protection has worked with the Travel Corporation, G Adventures, Intrepid, World Expeditions and many other tour operators to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. Together we formed the Coalition for Ethical Wildlife Tourism to shift tourist demand towards humane and sustainable alternatives. Inhabitat:  What have been some of your biggest wins? Matlow:  We are now working with some of the largest travel companies in the world to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. More than 200 tour operators have signed our pledge committing to never offer, sell or promote elephant rides and shows. After more than half a million people signed our petition and joined our movement, TripAdvisor committed to stop selling tickets to cruel attractions. Expedia soon followed suit and in 2017 we convinced Instagram to educate its users of the cruelty that happens behind the scenes for wildlife selfies. Inhabitat:  What are still the biggest challenges? Matlow: We need to reach the right people— wildlife lovers who are unknowingly causing harm by participating in wildlife entertainment activities and the travel companies who sell them tickets. One of our challenges is to debunk the many myths that these tourists and travel companies are commonly subjected to. Many tourist attractions dupe people into thinking they are protecting the animals and serving some kind of conservation and education benefit but nothing could be further from the truth. Tourists don’t realize that these attractions are commercially breeding and trading wild animals for the sole purpose of entertaining them. The demand is fueling the capture of wild animals from the wild. The animals suffer every day in small tanks and cages to entertain tourists and won’t ever be released into the wild. Tourists aren’t learning about how to keep the animals in the wild, where they belong. If anything, they are being desensitized to their suffering in captivity and learning that it is okay to get up close to them to feed them, pet them and take wildlife selfies. Inhabitat: What are the most important things for tourists to keep in mind when evaluating animal attractions? Matlow: Our simple rule of thumb is— if you can ride it, hug it or take a selfie with a wild animal, chances are it is cruel, so don’t do it. The best place to see wild animals is in the wild from a respectful distance. People can download our Animal-Friendly Travel Pocket Guide and visit our website to learn more about the work we do to encourage animal-friendly tourism and to protect the welfare of animals globally. +World Animal Protection Images via World Animal Protection

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Ending animal exploitation in tourism with World Animal Protection

Mud and recycled materials make up this sustainable Kerala home

April 30, 2019 by  
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When Ramanujan Basha decided to build a modern, eco-friendly home in Kerala, he turned to Wallmakers , a local design practice with a decade’s worth of experience designing sustainable architecture. Unlike its more conventional neighbors, the house, dubbed Chirath, is built primarily of mud, recycled elements and natural materials . Passive solar principles were also applied to the design to let in light and much-needed natural ventilation for relief from Kerala’s tropical climate. In addition to wanting a sustainable home, the client told the architects that he wanted to steer clear of the traditional Kerala home system. To combat the heat and the monsoon rain, most conventional homes feature sloped roofs with thick overhangs that protect against the elements but also lead to an undesirably dark interior. Moreover, the client felt that the traditional architectural systems’ delineation of space promoted gender inequality. “Thus during the early days of the project, the client had made a point that the house should be a symbol of a new light, or a new outlook to our age-old systems and beliefs,” the architects said. “‘Chirath,’ which denotes a traditional lamp in Malayalam, is the name given by Mr. Ramanujan Basha for his house at Pala, Kerala. The client thus asked for a solution by throwing away the bad and utilizing the good. We decided to break the roof, split it open and let the light flow in, all while using waste and mud to build the house. This is the concept of Chirath.” Related: Solar-powered home stays naturally cool in Kerala’s tropical heat Clad in locally sourced earth, Chirath’s structural walls were constructed with a mix of cement, soil and recycled coarse aggregate for strength, while ferrocement was used for the roof and partition walls. Other recycled materials include waste wood repurposed to make furnishings, such as the beds and kitchen cabinets, as well as unwanted steel given new life as beautiful window grills and ventilators. Locally sourced tiles were assembled into the terracotta tile jali that lets in cooling breezes and light. For added passive cooling, the architects installed a pool in the living area that connects to a rainwater harvesting tank, which collects runoff for reuse in the home. + Wallmakers Photography by Anand Jaju, Jino and Midhu via Wallmakers

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Mud and recycled materials make up this sustainable Kerala home

Designer Sophie Rowley creates marbled furniture from denim scraps

April 23, 2019 by  
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The clothing industry sucks up copious quantities of water and leaves behind environmental waste , like chemicals and dyes, in the process. So it’s not surprising that product designers continue to seek out useful and creative ways to repurpose waste from clothing production. One such designer, Sophie Rowley, has targeted denim and found a way to turn it into furniture. Not only is this furniture credited by taking denim scraps off the manufacturing room floor and out of the waste stream, but it’s also functional and visually interesting. Called Bahia Denim, the pieces weave the traditional blue denim color through a swirl of grays and whites, resulting in a marbled appearance. This end result resembles its namesake, the Brazilian blue marble known as Azul Bahia. Related: Mosevic makes fashionable eyewear using recycled denim Rowley, New-Zealand born and Central Saint Martins educated, is now based out of Berlin. The idea for the design stemmed from a desire to repurpose household materials. As with all of her designs, Rowley focused on sustainability and innovative material development. She experimented with standard materials like glass, plastic and foam before contemplating the possibilities of denim. She then played with the denim until she discovered a way to layer it, binding the layers together with resin. Once dry, the solid material is carved into shapes that are subsequently formed into furniture. There is no standard production when it comes to Bahia Denim. Each piece is a unique result of the materials and the process used to make them — sizes, shapes and thicknesses vary. The durable material can be used in a variety of applications in addition to tables and shelving, such as wall paneling and table or counter coverings. Car manufacturer Nissan has even suggested it as a future material for interior dashboards. Sophie’s Bahia Denim has earned the following accolades: Best New Surface Award 2015 / New Design Britain – Winner; AFRI cola award / Michalski 2009 – Finalist; and Createurope Award – Finalist. Bahia Denim is just one of Rowley’s innovative product designs, all created with an awareness of limited resources and the need to source non-virgin materials for the products we consume. + Sophie Rowley Via Dezeen Images via Sophie Rowley

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Designer Sophie Rowley creates marbled furniture from denim scraps

Botswana considers lifting elephant hunting ban due to overpopulation

February 25, 2019 by  
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Botswana is contemplating removing an elephant hunting ban that has successfully boosted populations over the past four years. The country has seen the number of elephants increase over the years and officials believe culling is needed to prevent conflicts between the mammals and people. Experts believe there are around 130,000 elephants in Botswana, a number that has steadily grown since the country adopted a hunting ban in 2014. Although Botswana’s tourism sector has benefited greatly from the population boost, President Mokgweetsi Masisi advised ministers to re-evaluate the ban in light of overpopulation. Related: Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants Officials in Botswana deliberated for months and consulted with residents and companies about the elephant hunting ban before releasing any data. The research indicated that people and organizations are in favor of lifting the hunting ban and keeping elephant populations within their traditional range. The ministers also recommended limited culling efforts in the event that the ban is lifted. “I can promise you and the nation that we will consider it. A white paper will follow, and it will be shared with the public,” President Masisi stated. Masisi added that they plan on consulting with parliament before they remove the ban and allow hunting of elephants . The president is also open to keeping the ban in place if parliamentary leaders believe it should be upheld. Proponents of lifting the ban claim that the rise in elephant populations in Botswana has led to an increase in conflict between the large mammals and humans. Farmers have also complained that elephants have been ruining crops. In some cases, the interactions between elephants and humans has turned violent, even leading to deaths. Environmentalists, on the other hand, disapprove of lifting the ban and say that better conservation efforts are needed to protect these animals . Experts also believe that Botswana’s tourism sector could take a major hit if the country starts hunting elephants again. Following its productive diamond mining, tourism is the country’s next highest source of outside income. It is unclear when officials in Botswana will initiate a plan to remove the elephant hunting ban and what the culling process will entail. Via BBC Image via designerpoint

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Botswana considers lifting elephant hunting ban due to overpopulation

This artist created a stunning art installation made from 168,000 plastic straws to encourage people to use less

February 25, 2019 by  
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The world produces 260 million tons of plastic every year, and 10 percent of it ends up in our oceans either degrading at a painfully slow rate or not degrading at all. Artist Benjamin Von Wong wants to send a message: The smallest action can make the biggest impact. Even something as simple as saying “no thanks” to a plastic straw. The numbers are constantly rising and soon the earth won’t be able to take it anymore. Among these troublesome pollutants is the humble plastic straw. Durable, too small to recycle and usually only used once, straws make up a huge portion of unnecessary plastic waste. Related: Volvo creates the living seawall in Sydney to help with plastic pollution Thankfully this epidemic is beginning to gain attention. With the help of volunteers, Starbucks Vietnam and Zero Waste Saigon, Von Wong spent six months gathering used plastic straws to turn into “The Parting of the Plastic Sea .” The art installation, also known as “strawpocalypse,” took over two weeks to create. To represent different parts of the wave, the straws were divided by color and connected together and formed into the flowing base, the white froth and the yellow sand. Volunteers spent hours arranging the straws to mimic paint brush strokes. Plastic bags were used to support the straws onto the structure and to act as a diffuser for the LED lighting . “The plastic problem is either out of sight, out of mind– or so omnipresent that it becomes invisible,” says Von Wong. “I wanted to use art to tackle both angles – by creating something beautiful and unique out of an environmental tragedy.” “Strawpocalypse” was truly a team effort. Along with the volunteers, Von Wong had the help of Nick Moser, a technical builder in SF, Stefan Suknjaja, an escape room designer in Serbia and Fosha Zyang, a local set designer . When it came to arranging the straws everything came together organically . Since it was difficult to predict exactly how the structure would look once finished, it was exciting for everyone when the piece finally began to come together. The piece currently resides inside the atrium at Estella Place in Ho Chi Minh City, giving viewers a chance to see “strawpocalypse” from a 360-degree angle. They also built a plastic background with a “sun” effect with LED light panels and galvanized wire to prevent distraction. The art installation is fitting, “something so large that if anybody walked by, they couldn’t help but ignore,” according to the artist. So next time you think to yourself “it’s only one straw,” just remember that eight billion other people are saying the same thing. “Strawpocalypse” will be looking for a new home starting in late March 2019, those interested can visit thestrawpocalypse.com + Von Wong Images via Von Wong

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This artist created a stunning art installation made from 168,000 plastic straws to encourage people to use less

New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

February 25, 2019 by  
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A new study suggests that the old saying about history repeating itself is absolutely true. In this case, history repeating itself pertains to none other than the topic on everyone’s minds— extinction. Researchers believe it’s taken 56 million years for earth to face another mass extinction that can occur in as little as 140 years.  The research, released last Wednesday and published in Geophysical Research Letters , compares conditions in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) period with our planet’s present warming condition. Back in PETM days, carbon dioxide shot up, increasing Earth’s temperatures by 9 to 14 degrees. The tropical Atlantic heated up to approximately 97 degrees. Land and marine animals died. It took 150,000 years for the planet to recover. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Unfortunately for us, carbon dioxide emissions are rising ten times faster now than they did during the PETM. Back then, wildfires, volcanic activity and methane wafting from the seafloor and permafrost were the culprits. Today, it’s down to us. Last year, emissions in countries with advanced economies rose slightly after a five-year decline. At this rate, the study predicts Earth’s atmosphere will be comparable to the beginning of PETM in 140 years, reaching a peak in 259 years. The result? Mass extinction. Philip Gingerich, the study’s author, did a literature review of previous studies on PETM and the rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Based on eight studies published between 2009 and 2018, he used models to project future emissions caused by humans. Gingerich is an emeritus professor in the University of Michigan’s earth sciences department. He directed the university’s Museum of Paleontology for nearly 30 years. “[It’s] as if we are deliberately and efficiently manufacturing carbon for emission to the atmosphere at a rate that will soon have consequences comparable to major events long ago in earth history,” Gingerich told Earther. As he states in his study, “A second PETM-scale global greenhouse warming event is on the horizon if we cannot lower anthropogenic carbon emission rates.” Via Earther Image via nikolabelopitv

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New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

Igloo-inspired glass and timber cabins offer gorgeous views in Lapland’s winter wonderland

January 25, 2019 by  
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Christmas may be over, but it’s still possible to visit the home of Santa Claus, and stay in these incredible igloo-style glass cabins . Helsinki-based firm, VOID Architecture designed the wooden huts with massive heated glass panels in Lapland, Finland to give visitors a serene place to stay while exploring the winter wonderland. The resort is located in Rovaniemi, the beautiful capital of Finland, known for its picturesque winter months. According to the architects, the structures were designed to be modern takes on the traditional igloo design. The individual cabins are built out of timber with large glazed walls that slant inwards as they reach the roof’s apex. The double height walls, made out of large triple-glazed panels, create an immersive feel to the interior, creating a strong connection with natural surroundings. Related:8 cabins that are perfect for a dreamy winter getaway The interior design of the living area was designed to offer a warm and comfortable home away from home. Taking into account the extreme winter weather in the area, all of the glass surfaces are heated to allow guests to fully enjoy taking in the views from virtually anywhere. Light wood paneling and modern, yet comfortable furnishings were used throughout the guest huts to create a cozy cabin atmosphere . Each structure contains a large living space with double height ceilings, two bedrooms, a bath and kitchen. Additionally, guests can enjoy their own private sauna and outdoor hot tub located on a large terrace. Guests to the resort can enjoy the views from the comfort of their own accommodation or visit the resort ‘s large restaurant and lounge, also built with a fully glazed facade. Large sliding glass doors lead out to an expansive balcony that provides stunning panoramic views of the snowy landscape. The resort also offers plenty of activities to enjoy the amazing surroundings. + VOID Architecture Via Archdaily Photography by Timo Laaksonen via VOID Architecture

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