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Competition: Amber Road cabins, Latvia

An open international contest has been announced for a series of overnight trekking cabins along Latvia’s 530km-long Baltic Sea coastline (Deadline: 25 October)

The competition seeks conceptual proposals for new, traditionally styled yet modern timber structures to host visitors travelling the country’s popular Amber Road walking routes.

Cabins must be low cost, low maintenance, easily adaptable and require no excavation work. Each structure will need to provide mosquito-proof lodging for four guests, and should be easy to construct in remote rural areas. Kitchen and bathroom facilities are optional while external seating and play equipment are encouraged.

Amber Road, Latvia

Amber Road, Latvia

Amber Road, Latvia

According to the brief: ‘The trekking cabins should be in keeping with Latvia’s heritage, and their design should comfortably adapt to suit various environments, with the potential of becoming an iconic part of the landscape themselves.

‘Working within a modest budget, the trekking cabins must provide guests with safe and comfortable lodgings, allowing both hikers and their guides the facilities to rest and enjoy the natural scenery.’

Latvia’s sandy beaches are famous for featuring washed-up pieces of precious Amber. The Amber Road emerged in prehistoric times as part of a network of early trade routes connecting northern Europe to Southern Europe.

Featuring dunes, steep cliffs, sandstone outcrops, rocks and caverns – Latvia’s coastal area is home to many picturesque fishing villages, imposing port cities and popular resort settlements, such as Jurmala.

Amber Road, Latvia

Amber Road, Latvia

Amber Road, Latvia

Trekking routes run parallel to the dramatic shoreline, connecting 500km of beaches and allowing visitors to explore locations where the fossilised tree resin can be found.

The project aims to enhance Latvia’s tourism industry by boosting access to the country’s coastline and improving connections to other coastal hiking trails within the European Long-Distance Paths Network.

Submissions to the contest – organised by Bee Breeders – must include four A2-sized presentation boards featuring sketches, renderings, plans, sections, elevations, diagrams and textual descriptions.

The overall winner, to be announced 8 November, will receive $3,000 USD, while a second place prize of $1,500 and third place prize of $500 will also be awarded. Six honourable mentions will furthermore be announced along with a $500 student award and $500 green award.

All winning schemes will be considered for construction along the route by the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency.

How to apply


The deadline for registration is 27 September
The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm GMT on 25 October


Early registration from 16 May to 7 June: $90 professionals, $70 students
Standard registration from 8 June to 28 July: $120 professionals, $100 students
Late registration from 29 July to 27 September: $140 professionals, $120 students

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Black Hat case study: Q&A with Niall Maxwell

The principal of Rural Office for Architecture discusses lesson learned designing a portable ‘hotel room’ for scenic locations across Wales

How did your project deliver an appropriate off-the-grid cabin for its location in Wales?

We have delivered an easily transportable structure that is simple to erect and relatively lightweight. As a tented structure these facilities are not for year-round use, but are designed for the tourist season. Aesthetically, the form of the structure is a clearly recognisable Welsh symbol, synonymous with the culture and traditions of the nation.

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Which architectural, material, structural and other methods did you harness in your design?

The combination of local and national craftsmanship, together with the use of traditional and state of the art construction methods, has been the main contributing factor to the finished design. The use of locally sourced materials, such as the spruce poled frame, meant we worked with what was close at hand and within our means.

We began by researching traditional tipi and yurt structures, before experimenting in incorporating them together as a hybrid design. Our materials reflect the traditional requirements, all the timber elements of the build had been sourced locally and are indicative of the available local skills. The demountable canvas skin along with the clear uPVC lantern were made locally using specialists in tensile tent structures.

As the traditional Welsh hat isn’t pointed like a witch’s hat, we needed to develop a series of ring beams that would provide the required shape and much needed stability to the timber frame. Working alongside a local craftsman who assisted with the design, the form and assembly began to take shape.

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

What advice would you have to participants on designing a trekking cabins for Latvia’s Amber Road?

Researching existing local and regional typologies will allow the entrants to better understand a number of regional conditions, be it climate, altitude, logistics or buildability. Local construction techniques and skills can be an invaluable asset when designing. Such techniques have been adapted specifically to the region and as such shouldn’t be overlooked. Additionally, although a factor that shouldn’t drive your design proposals, designing to budget,should be considered throughout the process as costs can quite quickly get out of hand. Architects do have a tendency to get carried away with conceptual ideas, forgetting the practical implications of the build.

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture

Black Hat by Rural Office for Architecture