CFI cabin design competition draws entries from around the world

Katie Tower
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SACKVILLE, N.B. – If you dream it, they will build it.

That’s the idea behind Community Forests International’s (CFI) recent design competition that invited artists, builders and architects from around the world to put forward their ideas for a “backwoods cabin of the future.”

More than 55 designers answered the call, with submissions received from not only North America but also Spain, Italy, Japan and various other locales.

“We were floored with the response,” said Daimen Hardie, CFI co-founder and project director last week.

The international design contest, open to the public, encouraged amateur and professional designers to sketch out their vision for a small, all-season shelter for two. The shelter will be built this summer and serve as sleeping and retreat quarters for guests of Whaelghinbran Farm, a 580-acre site near Sussex where CFI is developing a Rural Innovation Campus.

With no registration required and no qualifications needed, Hardie said anyone was able to get involved in this project, from students to artists to green builders and dreamers. And with sustainability on the minds of many nowadays, the contest drew in a lot of attention.

“People really responded to it,” he said.

Community Forests International, a volunteer-based organization headquartered in Sackville, works to connect people and their communities to the forests that sustain them and has initiated forest and climate change education around the world.

The design competition is part of CFI’s wider Rural Innovation Campus project, a place where CFI will be able to hold workshops and apprenticeships, educate participants on gardening, forestry management, and other environmental topics.

The New Brunswick campus will complement CFI’s parallel efforts overseas, where the organization has already begun development of a similar institution on the island of Pemba, Tanzania.

The cabin will be the first permanent building CFI has constructed on the site, which will be built with sustainability in mind – the rules required that the shelter be no bigger than 184 square feet, it should be constructed with local and non-toxic building materials, and would need to ‘capture the sun’ in some way.

All the submitted designs are now on display through an online gallery via the CFI website (

Hardie said the team at CFI was amazed and inspired by the care and attention put into the submissions and hopes others will draw inspiration from the designs, even using them to “go out and build one themselves.”

Jeff Schnurr, CFI’s executive director and founding member, was also impressed with the submissions.

“This is exactly the type of innovation we need in the Maritimes,” he said. “People from around the world working to change how we live on the land. After this outpouring of creative energy, we really feel like we're onto something.”

The submissions will be judged by a panel of leading architects, artists and builders, with the short-listed entries to be displayed this week at an exhibition at Thunder & Lightening on Bridge Street in downtown Sackville.

The winner, who will see their vision become reality when CFI staff and volunteers construct the building this summer in a secluded wooded area on the campus site, will be announced during a ceremony March 1.


Organizations: Community Forests International

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, North America, Spain Italy Japan Sussex New Brunswick Island of Pemba Tanzania Bridge Street

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