In 2001, a group of artists, architects, and obvious nature lovers banded together to encourage hiking and outdoor exploration in the urban areas of Bordeaux, France.
The project initially introduced a hiking trail to the region, but the main attraction is now undoubtedly a series of six well-designed Refuges Periurban (Peri-urban shelters) that dot under-utilized sections of countryside or wetland left behind by urban development.
This shelter, named “Les Guetters” (“The Watchers” in French) was inspired by small, ground-dwelling owls of the region and sits in an area just 200 metres away from a bustling shopping mall—though you’d never know it.
As part of the Noise Initiative project, visitors, hikers and local residents can rent a night at “Les Guetters” or any of the other minimalist shelters for free. Read more about the project and get rental information here.
"The Watchers" is the only animal-inspired shelter of six built near Bordeaux, France. Modelled off local wildlife, the timber structure looks like three owls sitting back-to-back.
Inside the head
Despite innovative architecture and intricate exterior detailing, the designers wanted the focus to be on the outdoor space rather than in and went for a very geometric, minimalist interior look. The cabin sleeps six, with three levels connected by ladders. Each landing has a circular bed (modelled after a nest) that has been strategically placed under the owl's eyes.
An urban escape
An image from one of the "bird's eye" windows shows the amazing panoramic views of The Garbonne River, which is only 12 metres of dock away. It's hard to believe that just 200 metres from the shelter—which has no running water or electricity—is a bustling urban shopping centre.
Bird's eye view
Large, round windows offer a whole new meaning to "bird's eye view." Each of the owls sits at a different height, with eyes as windows that offer panoramic views of The Garbonne River during the day and the stars at night. The building frame is made from circular plywood and the exterior design was created with strips of curved wood and shingles that were cut to look like feathers.
A long dock overlooking the river accentuates how rare this urban retreat really is. This free rental is literally a countryside cabin that is separated from the city by a patch of grass. Dreamy for bird lovers, tourists who want to explore cities without paying hefty hotel fees, or locals who want a bit of waterside respite without venturing too far.