DESIGNING A CABIN FOR COLLEGE CREDIT
1st place: Floating Porch Retreat, Taylor Smith, NC State
lipping quietly into first place in the final week of the competition, the “Floating Porch Retreat” garnered 21% of the vote. One of the biggest challenges that Smith, 22, faced with her design was meeting her acting client’s request for the cabin to accommodate 8–10 people. With a project limit on square footage (1,750), Smith had to get creative, providing sleeping
spaces outside and adding sleeper sofas inside. For Smith, “Architecture is all about making the space work for the client’s needs and lifestyle.” The client also expressed a desire to access nature from the cabin, so Smith included plenty of glass in her design to establish a visual connection with the outdoors. The cabin appears to blend in with the environment of the site as well, which is heavily wooded and includes access to the Haw River. Smith chose to enroll in Georgia Bizio’s class because it was her first opportunity to have a studio on residential architecture. “That was what really interested me going into architecture,” she says, adding that the project really taught
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her how to mingle the cabin environment (the site) with the structure itself. Earlier this year, Smith earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture degree. She is currently finishing up a summer internship with Michael Ross Kersting Architects, a firm that designs custom residential homes. This fall, she’ll start a fifth-year program to earn a Bachelor of Architecture degree.
“This project really taught me how to mingle the cabin environment (the site) with the structure itself.”
Design highlights: • Clerestory windows to let in natural light.
• Two bedrooms, each with access to an outdoor patio.
• Three fireplaces, including two downstairs and one upstairs.
• Upstairs reading nook near the staircase.
• Large windows offer views of the Haw River.
• Expansive decks and patio spaces. • Screened-in porches on all sides.
ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS SPEND countless hours in college studios, designing, sketching, drawing, rendering and refining their projects. Throughout their college experience, much of the focus is on large-scale, commercial structures. According to many of the students involved in this competition, the cabin project offered a nice opportunity to approach a more intimate side of architecture. At North Carolina State University, Georgia Bizios taught a studio with a small-scale residential design theme. Her students were expected to complete three projects over the semester, one of which was a cabin. The project included a site visit to the Haw River, where students were randomly assigned lots near Bizios’ own cabin. Each cabin was designed with its specific site in mind. At the University of Minnesota, Dale Mulfinger taught a similar class. For his students’ cabin projects, they made a weekend trip to a cabin property on Lake Vermilion, where they traveled on snowshoes to their assigned sites. Some of the cabin sites had water access, while others did not. Some were located on islands, and others on steep slopes. During the design process, each student had to consider the unique features and challenges of his or her site. After their sites were assigned, the students chose an acting client (typically a professor or friend) to serve as a person seeking to build a cabin. The students met with their respective clients to discuss their goals, and then met with them again to get feedback on their working designs. The cabins were limited to 1,750 square feet of living space, but both professors encouraged their students to go smaller if it better served the needs of the client. For most of the students, says Bizios, this is their first experience working with a “real” client and a specific site. “Many of the students blossom and behave as architects,” says Bizios. “They meet with clients and get feedback like professionals.” Mulfinger agrees: “They really own the idea that they get to be an architect.” For some of the students, especially those who didn’t have personal experiences with cabin living, the project presented a whole new way to think about residential architecture. “Architecture students are used
to having to understand what it’s like to use spaces without actually having those experiences themselves before,” says Bizios, adding that many students were inspired by ideas they received from their clients. To become more familiar with the cabin lifestyle, Dale Mulfinger’s students toured many cabins, including a collection of 10 modest cabins at Ludlow’s Island Resort on Lake Vermilion. Mulfinger also invited his students over to his own cabin for dinner. “This gives them a feeling of cabin-ness,” says Mulfinger. Bizios believes that designing a cabin is a good exercise because the students have to think about it differently than they would if
“Many of the students blossom and behave as architects.”
they were designing a primary home. The site and how the client plans to use the structure must be carefully considered. “Each client has unique needs,” says Bizios. “Our students need to be quite versatile.” According to Mulfinger, one of the biggest challenges architects face is resolving conflicts between their professional knowledge and the common clients’ interests. “Their challenge is to work in the land of the middle,” he says. Many of the students’ designs don’t look like cabins in the traditional sense, but the emphasis is on organizing space rather than just making the structure look like a cabin stylistically, says Bizios. The students have to instead consider how the space will be used and its connection to the environment. “We try to respond to the client’s needs and the opportunities of the site to produce the best design, even if it means challenging the notion of what a cabin is,” says Bizios.
Cabin Life, Cabin Living
Won 1st place in a design competition hosted by Cabin Life Magazine.