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VATN, summer house in the middle of the lake

02 of June '21
Technical data
Name: VATN
Location: Poland
Labor: GAME BOX Architektura, Emilia Gabryjel.
Dimensions: 243.8×1219.2×289 cm (based on a 40 HC container)


  • design


Emilia Gabryjel of {tag:pracownie} has designed an unusual summer house. VATN, meaning water in Icelandic, was placed in the middle of a lake, in the midst of a forest grove. The basis of the design is a 40 HC shipping container, to which the architect added a small superstructure with a staircase and roof access. The concept won the top prize in the VASCO Integration competition in the "Design Innovation" category.

VATN is a summer house designed for two people. The architect wanted the object, despite its modest dimensions, to provide users with exceptional comfort. In the middle zone, with a lowered height, there were rooms of lesser utility - a technical room, a closet/wardrobe, a bathroom, a kitchenette and a circulation path, connecting the two more important parts - the living room and bedrooms.

Domek letniskowy VATN
powstał w kontenerze morskim

VATN summer house was built in a shipping container

© GAME BOX Architecture

nature peeking inside

The living room and bedroom have been equipped with large glazing, integrating them with the surroundings. Interestingly, there is no room for a TV in the living room, here nature is the main entertainment. From the spacious modular lounge set, the cottage user, thanks to the glazing with the possibility of its full opening, admires the surroundings. The glazing has been moved back into the depths of the container, thus creating a small covered terrace, with a descent to the water, without interfering with the original body of the cottage.

Kuchnia w domku

The walls in the interiors are covered with metal cladding and birch plywood

© GAME BOX Architecture

The living room and kitchenette are located in one space, but the variation in the height of the floors of these zones and the use of a staircase between them, significantly organizes their layout. The glazing optically enlarges the tiny kitchenette, and the work surface is provided by a folding countertop, which also serves as a table for two. On the opposite side is a compact bedroom. The mattress is divided crosswise into two parts. When the smaller one is placed on the floor, a full-size bed for two people is created, occupying the full width of the room. During the day, this part can serve as a headrest, creating a cozy place to relax. From the platform level, users have access to a large closet/wardrobe.

Domek letniskowy VATN,
przekrój i rzut

The power generation system is based on motors with paddle rotors installed below the water surface

© GAME BOX Architecture

eco-friendly technological solutions

Emilia Gabryjel's main goal was to create a space friendly to both nature and the user. In order to protect nature, the author envisioned a number of technological solutions for obtaining heat, electricity and waste management. The VATN house is located in the middle of a trough-flow lake. This means that there are flowing currents in the surface layers of the water. Taking advantage of this fact, the architketka used a power generation system based on motors with vane rotors installed below the water surface, under the middle part of the container. Directly above the turbine unit, in the central part of the building, the floor was raised. In this way, space was freed up for the necessary installations: generator, inverter, batteries, but also the equipment operating the water pump (which supplies water to the house directly from the lake) and the water heat pump, providing energy-efficient heating of the house in winter and its cheap cooling in summer.

Domek letniskowy VATN,

modular living room lounge set

© GAME BOX Architecture

Waste management is carried out in cooperation with a domestic mechanical-biological treatment plant, which ensures high quality of treated wastewater - it can be discharged directly into a water body or the ground. It is envisaged that the treatment plant will be buried in the ground on the wharf and sewage pipes will be brought under the platform, leading from the wharf to the container. The architect has designed to insulate the walls from the inside using the thinnest possible material. In this case, it is a composite material consisting of several layers of aluminum foil, layers of dry and stable air and polyethylene. On the inside, meanwhile, it used a metal cladding that maintains the container's distinctive look on the interior as well.

Domek letniskowy VATN
na jeziorze

VATN in Icelandic means water

© GAME BOX Architecture

Dobrawa Bies: Where did the idea for the summerhouse come from? The form of the building is unusual, designed on the basis of a shipping container. What flowed into such a design decision?

Emilia Gabryjel: The use of a shipping container as a base, a starting point for the concept of a summerhouse, was a requirement of the VASCO competition. The vision of using such an obvious structure in a completely non-obvious way seemed attractive to me. What's more, to make the life cycle of a shipping container come full circle, after giving it a new life, returning to wide waters.

Dobrawa: What were your assumptions and inspirations?

Emilia: My main assumption, coinciding with the competition design guidelines, was the environment and what problem it has with us, with people. We often say that we act, design, or that a product is environmentally friendly. However, I get the impression that these are very convenient and circular statements. We want to live at a level that excludes friendship with nature, or caring for it. How we function has a destructive effect on the environment. What's more, on ourselves as well (in some bizarre way we don't seem to care at all). So in this project, I went on the assumption that the summer house should, above all, be neutral to the environment, invisible. I envisioned technical solutions in it, so that it would draw energy and water from nature, but unlike usual - it would not destroy nature in return. The inspiration came spontaneously - thinking of nature in its purest form, I always have the Mazurian Lake District before my eyes. Clear, cool waters, forests, and silence. The designed cottage was to be a place in harmony with nature, and the user was to feel a part of it.

Domek letniskowy VATN,

The compact bedroom accommodates two people

© GAME BOX Architecture

Dobrawa: What materials were used and how did their selection affect the whole project?

Emilia: I wanted the design to be consistent and honest. The designed house is not ashamed of its origin, does not pretend that it is not a container. On the contrary, it tries to be proud of its identity, as proof of which it proudly looks through its reflection. The walls, insulated on the inside with thin composite panels, are finished with metal panels that consistently repeat the divisions of the exterior walls. In addition, cladding of birch knotless plywood was used. It is responsible for the cozy atmosphere in the interiors. The dimensions of the container are impressive, but not when we are talking about a cottage that is supposed to be a comfortable place of relaxation, so I tried to minimize the number of functional zones and equipment, rather than the dimensions of individual furniture.

 Domek letniskowy
z dużym przeszkleniem

VATN is a cottage where you can hear the sound of water and birds singing

© GAME BOX Architecture

Dobrawa: Who was the cottage designed for? How should guests feel here? Is there a chance to implement it?

Emilia: I designed the summer house for its location in the middle of a flowing lake. It draws all its power from the water - from the surface currents, its constant temperature in the deeper parts and from the sheer access of a clean spring. Hence the name of the VATN cottage. Such a location ensures peace and tranquility, so it is the ideal cottage for those who, in place of weekend gatherings with a neighbor at a barbecue, are looking for contact with nature, a breather, stopping the whirl of everyday affairs. In the living area you will search in vain for a place for a TV. VATN is a cottage where you can hear the sound of water and birds singing. Although the various technical solutions used in the cottage are available on the market and all design issues seem to me to be solvable in reality, I treat this project only as a visualization of my dream, if only because of the legal status of Polish lakes, which belong to the State Treasury.

Dobrawa: What does winning the VASCO competition mean to you?

Emilia: It's a great honor, because the VASCO Integration competition is already a brand in itself. When it comes to such events, the greatest value for me is meeting people - other participants, jurors, organizers, etc. Exchanging insights, experiences and making new friends are priceless.

Dobrawa: Thank you for the interview.

Dobrawa Bies

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