This Slide-Open Prefab Was Designed to Set Your Brain on “Default Mode”

The ANNA cabin splits in half to open the interior and, the creator says, your mind to nature.

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Cabin ANNA began in 2016 as a way for Caspar Schols and his family to cope with a personal tragedy. At his mother’s request, he built a refuge on her rural forested property where the family “would feel connected and feel one,” says Schols. “I started dreaming of how we could be surrounded by life instead of shielded from it.” In ten months, the once physicist completed the Garden House: a prototype of what would, to his own surprise, turn into a much larger project oriented toward a deeper connection with the planet. We asked Schols about to tell us more about ANNA, what he looks for in a potential client, and his plans for a more affordable model.

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

What’s the most exciting project you’ve realized to date?

This cabin in De Biesbosch in the Netherlands, a wildlife reserve. For next year, we’re looking forward to working with ten unique clients and locations in both E.U. and U.S.

Who are your clients?

They range from nature reserves, to people that want to add a cabin to their estate as a place for friends and family to stay, to beautiful eco-resorts. They are all uniquely different. We select our clients based on their story and location, and whether we share a similar vision of the world, a world in which people live close to nature and in balance with it. One client has an estate meant for anyone who’s feeling burnt out and needs to reconnect to the essentials. What all of our clients have in common is that they’re all extremely conscious of mental health and the planet.

How does the cabin align with this vision?

ANNA is a tool to reconnect to nature. All of our projects revolve in one way or the other around that. When I returned home to the Netherlands after my studies, I met Margriet Sitskoorn, professor of clinical neuropsychology at Tilburg University. She was able to explain why ANNA’s sliding layers, operated by muscle power, are so important to the design. Her reasoning goes like this: The brain is wired to understand what we can do with an object, based on the interaction between the properties of the object and the motor system of the human body. Therefore, the brain gets “confused” when the act or movement of the body is not aligned with the action that was set in motion. This is often the case when we interact with electronic devices like computers and iPhones.

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

So, let’s say, if ANNA’s layers were operated electronically, you would press a button with one finger and as a result a whole 2,500-kilogram section would start to slide. Your mind has set about the movement of an object, but your body was barely involved. The body and mind are, therefore, not aligned.

When your mind and body are aligned, however, it strengthens the experience. When you push the layers of ANNA by hand, the body prepares the mind to open up and connect to the natural environment. It’s not just the physical boundaries that disappear, psychological boundaries simultaneously dissolve too. Your inner and outer world become one. You are fully immersed in the moment.

In professor Sitskoorn’s terms, our thinking and feeling determine our actions but our actions also determine our thinking and feeling. This is called embodied cognition. And then, when you are fully immersed in a natural environment, your brain can relax and go into “default mode.” In this state of reflection, transcendent experiences and recovery processes can get going, both being essential for our mental health.

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

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