Architect Michael Leckie's new project takes a backcountry, Ikea-like approach to prefab housing.

For Wilson Edgar and Michael Leckie, the Backcountry Hut Company has been a long time in the making. “It’s a small, soulful project,” says Leckie, principal of Leckie Studio Architecture and Design (and 2016 Designers of the Year winner).The co-founders—and childhood friends—have always considered themselves to be avid outdoorsmen, but it’s Edgar who really embraced the lifestyle. As president of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club and an active member in many outdoor organizations, Edgar was inspired to create a small, recreational structure that could easily be installed in remote locations.So Edgar approached Leckie who, admittedly, wasn’t sure it could work. “I looked at and thought there maybe wasn’t a huge market,” says Leckie. “But I thought if we extended the idea to encompass a larger group, maybe it’s something a much wider audience can gravitate to.”“We started to imagine how someone with a piece of land on Bowen Island or Pemberton or Squamish could use the huts, and imagined a very broad application for the idea of self-assembled structures,” says Leckie. “From that, we set up a series of parameters through which we could start to create a prototype and evaluate its potential success.” Edgar and Leckie came up with four core values inspired by the Ikea business model: they wanted Backcountry Huts to be modular, easy to assemble, customizable and sustainable.“We ended up drawing a distinction between two different scenarios,” says Leckie. The Backcountry Hut is meant to provide the “very basic elements of shelter and is really no more than a series of bunks, a common space and wood-burning stove,” explains the designer. “It’s meant for transitory occupation (groups of people coming there for a night or two as they explore the backcountry).”“We’ve also allowed the interior to accommodate more domestic fittings, which allows it to be fully realized as a one-, two- or three-bedroom cabin,” says Leckie of the company’s Frontcountry Hut.All of the huts are shipped as a kit of parts, flat-packed in cardboard boxes, which can then be assembled by the end-user (or a Backcountry Hut crew). “The structural, engineered wood skeleton is assembled first,” says Leckie. “In many ways it’s reminiscent of a traditional barn-raising or community-building event.”This community aspect has further inspired Leckie and Edgar. “We’ve imagined, built and designed a system, and now, as people engage with it, we’re finding all kinds of variance that people are interested in,” says Leckie. “It’s akin to, or borrows from, an open-source model where you invite user participation. It’s exciting.”

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