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Competition: Iceland Trekking Cabins

An open international design competition has been launched for a series of remote hiking refuges in Iceland (Deadline: 27 July)

Open to everyone, the anonymous contest seeks ‘innovative and exciting’ proposals for iconic low-cost and off-the-grid structures that could be replicated across the country’s many hiking trails.

The Iceland Trekking Cabins project, backed by CDS NORD Property Developers, aims to boost trekking tourism by opening up inaccessible parts of the country and providing safe shelter for adventurers.



Source: Image by Kenny Muir

Jokulsarlon lake

There is no fixed budget or site, but entries must be able to withstand extreme weather conditions and be sensitive to local architectural styles. At least one winning design will be constructed in a yet-to-confirmed location within the next two years. 

The brief reads: ‘Participants are tasked with creating clever and inventive designs for the trekking cabin that can be duplicated in all sorts of terrain, and help improve access to harder to reach areas of this incredible country.

‘The Iceland Trekking Cabins must be representative of Iceland’s identity, with a design aesthetic that could become an icon on its own. Its purpose is to provide safe, comfortable and inviting lodgings, where trekkers and their guides can rest, refuel and, if necessary, wait out troublesome weather.’

The rugged landscape of the volcanically active, mid-Atlantic island includes various hot springs, lava fields, mountains and glaciers.

Freboudze glacier, Italy

Freboudze glacier, Italy

Source: Image by Francesco Mattuzzi

New Refuge Gervasutti by LEAPfactory

Conceptual proposals must accommodate 20 hikers and their equipment for at least one week in all weathers. Structures must be environmentally responsible, resource efficient and be able to generate electricity and safe drinking water.

The cabins – intended for non-permafrost, remote high-altitude locations with no road access – may exceed the design brief and also harness alternative development strategies if required.

Digital submissions may include up to four A2-sized landscape presentation boards featuring plans, perspectives, technical details and visualisations.

PK Arkitektar won a contest for a series of zero carbon vacation cottages, harnessing geothermal hydro energy and featuring hot-tubs, concrete bases and timber panel exteriors – in Iceland four years ago.

The competition is organised by Bee Breeders, which launched in 2011 and has organised various high-profile ideas competitions including one for a portable ‘Charlie Hebdo’ pavilion in Paris and another for a medicinal cannabis bank which is also currently open for entries.

The winning team – set to be announced on 31 August – will receive a $3,000 USD top prize. A second place prize of $1,500 USD, third place prize of $500 USD and six honourable mentions will also be awarded.

How to Apply


Registration deadline is 27 July and submissions must be received by 11:59 GMT on 17 August


Early bird registration from April 27 to June 1: $90 USD for professionals / $70 USD for students
Advance registration from June 2 to June 29: $ 120 USD for professionals / $100 USD for students
Last minute registration from June 30 to July 27: $140 USD for professionals / $120 USD for students

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

New Refuge Gervasutti case study: Q&A with Stefano Testa

The co-founder of LEAPfactory discusses how his practice designed a mountain refuge above Italy’s Freboudze glacier



Stefano Testa

How did your New Refuge Gervasutti project respond to its Alpine setting while delivering the functional requirements of a remote refuge?

Everything of the New Refuge Gervasutti is specifically conceived for the Alpine environment – from the construction to the management of the building. The compactness and the essentiality of the volume is the key point when building in a special context such as the high altitude one.

What material, construction and other considerations are important when designing a refuge in a remote location?

Developing life and hospitality in remote locations is always difficult. When designing a new building far away from power sources it’s important, for example, to install systems that could work off-grid, exploiting renewable energy sources. Another main issue is the distance, and the lack of transport routes. To avoid an endless construction process and a waste of energy, every component of the building must be very light (but resistant), possibly prefabricated, and easy to install. Finally, remote locations usually correspond with sensitive natural environments. This is why human interventions must be very ‘light’ with a very low impact.

Freboudze glacier, Italy

Freboudze glacier, Italy

New Refuge Gervasutti by LEAPfactory

How might competitors harness Iceland’s natural landscape to create clever and inventive refuges which improve access to inaccessible places?

Firstly, they should relate their projects with the environment, with a deep analysis of the climate, weather conditions and landscapes. As in every real project, they should privilege the feasibility of their idea instead of just playing with weird shapes. As we used to say, they should design a hut to live nature on tiptoes.

Freboudze glacier, Italy

Freboudze glacier, Italy

Source: Image by Francesco Mattuzzi

New Refuge Gervasutti by LEAPfactory