Self-Sufficient Solar Retreat Opens Like A Dollhouse [Pics]

Self-Sufficient Solar Retreat Opens Like A Dollhouse [Pics]
Design & Architecture

The concept design features walls that open on hinges to invite nature in.

Daniela Walker
  • 4 march 2013

Retreat homes typically conjure up images of cabins and coziness, and a general reference to nostalgia. Dutch design firm Tjep. didn’t see why that had to be so. They wanted to use technology to create a completely self-sufficient modern retreat that is in harmony with the nature surrounding it. They designed a home, named Isolée, with hinged walls that gives inhabitants the option of having an ‘open’ home with no barrier between them and their environs.

The team approached designing the house as if they were designing a piece of furniture. They wanted something that is seemingly placed in the environment with little disturbance to the nature surrounding it. There is no obvious foundation, rather the house stands upon four legs (as if it were a chair) with the concrete foundation hidden within the legs. In the design representation, it looks as if the house were just placed gently amongst the rocks.


The house would be completely self-sufficient with a solar-panel tree sitting on the roof. The tree’s panels would move with the sun, just as a flower does. Heat is supplied through a wood-burning stove, and circulated by power generated through the solar panels. The only utility supply the house needs is fresh water.


Although it is intended to be a retreat from the modern world, it is also a testament to it. The walls are made of hinged engine-powered shutters which would link to a computer. The inhabitants can then close and open the walls as they wish and the computer also automatically closes the walls when a storm comes. Says designer Frank Tjepkema:

I was curious to see what would happen if you gave a house the same sort of detailed design that’s found in all sorts of products we use every day. The cars we drive, the computers and tablets we use, the smartphones – all sophisticated, aesthetically sound objects. And then we go home, where we’re surrounded by a stack of bricks.

The firm is now looking for partners to build a prototype of the house.

Click through to see more of Isolée below:


+Environmental / Green
+environmental design
+solar panel

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