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Architect wins financing from Airbnb $10M OMG! Fund, builds giant dragon’s egg in the forest

In the area of Argentina known as Trávelin, we fly a flag with a dragon in the middle. It remains a tourist trademark of the area, inspired by the Welch influence on the Chubut community. The idea came to me, to create a space resembling an egg left behind by a dragon – honoring the emblem of the town.

  • 11 months ago
  • April 4, 2023
6 min read
A view of the dragon's egg at night in Chubut, Argentina - one of the winners of the Airbnb $10M OMG! Fund A view of the dragon's egg at night in Chubut, Argentina - one of the winners of the Airbnb $10M OMG! Fund | Photo courtesy of the Martin de Estrada team
Interview Subject
Martín Estrada is a 35-year-old architect who was born in Buenos Aires and has lived in the Esquel province in Chubut, Argentina for seven years. With confidence, determination, and a dream, he won $100,000 from Airbnb to build a cabin in the shape of a dragon’s egg in the Patagonian town of Trávelin, inspired by the area’s flag and the birth of a new stage in his life. After two months in the competition, he learned he won. Of the 100 projects, only 15 are Latin American: 10 from Mexico, two from Chile, one from Costa Rica, and two from Argentina. The other Argentine winner proposed a Hansel and Gretel Chocolate House in Pehuajó, Buenos Aires.
Background Information
The $10M Airbnb OMG! Fund sought to finance the building of the craziest places on earth. In the competition, 100 people would receive $100K each to bring their wild projects to life. The projects that won included a giant flower pot on a farm in Idaho, an ancestral lava cave in a volcano in Chile, stargazing stone igloos in South Africa, and a livable giant coconut in Thailand – to name a few!

CHUBUT, Argentina ꟷ I became one of 100 recipients in 20 countries to win the opportunity to bring my unique idea to life through the Airbnb $10M OMG! Fund. I created a unique rental that resembles a dragon’s egg in the forest, connected to the ground by a ramp that looks like a slide.

In the area of Argentina known as Trávelin, we fly a flag with a dragon in the middle. It remains a tourist trademark of the area, inspired by the Welch influence on the Chubut community. The idea came to me, to create a space resembling an egg left behind by a dragon – honoring the emblem of the town. Drowning in work, I perfected my design but did not have enough money to carry the project forward. With patience, faith, enthusiasm, and confidence, my dream became a reality.

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Architect engages in emotional competition through the Airbnb $10M OMG! Fund

When I learned about the competition through Airbnb, I submitted my project amongst architectural proposals from all over the world. The competition boasted four areas upon which they would judge: originality, feasibility, experience, and sustainability. The designs had to be surprising and transform the guests’ vision of what accommodations can be. We had to pass technical inspections and complete the projects by August 2023, and the interior needed to be as memorable as the exterior.

I felt the pulse of the stages of competition. Each step, Airbnb asked us to provide a variety of data and timelines. With each new phase, the project became more specific and accurate. I felt like I could reach out and touch it. Excitement filled me each time an email came through with good news. An indescribable energy ran through my body as I raised my arms and shouted, “Bravo!” Overflowing with emotion, I hugged anyone close to me and tears of happiness ran down my face.

An interior view of the dragon’s egg cabin funded by Airbnb | Photo courtesy of the Martin de Estrada team

With each elimination phase I passed, my confidence grew. I knew my dream of the dragon egg was impacting people on the plane of their imaginations. Continually challenging myself, I needed to prove time and again I had a great idea that could work.

While no easy task, I continued to make a strong impression. After the lengthy process, I finally received the call. They announced the winners, and I received the financing to build the cabin! I could barely contain my thoughts. It hit me: my idea would leave the realm of dreams and become something tangible and real. I did not know how or when it would happen. All I knew was that, eventually, it would.

A thoughtful, astounding space that feels like a dream

When I first had the idea of building an egg-shaped house, I never imagined it would be a cabin. I imagined it as my studio – something to represent my style of work as an architect. For me, I wanted it to symbolize the birth of a new stage of my life and merge art with architecture.

I also believed the design could serve as a letter of introduction for new clients and a great statement in my portfolio. The final project exceeded even my own expectations thanks to the reward I received from Airbnb. The competition took it to a whole new level.

Mostly importantly, I wanted the cabin to turn out exactly as I envisioned it, or better. To do this, I needed a great team of professionals who understood and could convey my vision. Though completely surreal, each step felt joyful. As I watched others building the dragon’s egg, and my vision took shape, I felt energized again.

When you tour the cabin inside, it feels cavernous. You experience shape and spatiality in every single detail. The plastering consists of all natural materials, lime, and mud. The textured walls retain their small rusticity. Wood worked with organic shapes highlight a fairly traditional cabin feature. The most powerful combination, though, is the cave sensation contrasted with two windows offering impressive panoramic views. One points to the Andes Mountain range, and the other toward the Trávelin Valley. It feels like a dream.

Dreams do come true and you can spend your time in wonder

I see my project as a vindication of architecture. We live in a time when image seems most important, and everything remains ephemeral, or short-lived. Architecture, on the other hand, carries great weight symbolically. It possesses the power through art to create something in the present moment that is tangible and habitable.

The dragon’s egg remains an architectural feat and artistic masterpiece | Photo courtesy of the Martin de Estrada team

Throughout the completion of the project, everything felt instantaneous. Suddenly, something appeared that required a base or a support. It had layers and steps. Above all, it relied on very clear laws, the first of which was the law of gravity.  I remained focused to achieve the same characteristics in the rendering, ensuring the structure maintained its slenderness and beauty. In addition to scale and shape, the height of the dragon egg involved structural challenges and complexities.

By the end, my search led me to a closeness with contemporary architecture and a love for detail in this Patagonian environment – all of which remains embodied in the dragon’s egg. In the end, the lodging I imagined one day in my mind and timidly sketched on a piece of paper, stands tall. Though it may sound cliché, dreams can be real. Mine is proof that you can go and spend your days and nights in wonder.

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