Longbranch Cabin

Longbranch / United States / 2014

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In 1912, my grandparents built a summer cottage on a forested site on Puget Sound, and I spent summers and many weekends there as a child. When I was a first-year architecture student, my father gave me five hundred dollars and said, “Go build a bunkhouse”: my first great opportunity. Nestled amidst the trees of this waterside forest and raised on stilts, this tiny cabin sat respectfully on the landscape. When my grandparents’ cottage was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, the bunkhouse was all that was left of the property.


What began as a 200-square-foot bunkhouse in 1959 has seen the addition of several interconnected rooms through a series of remodelings in 1981, 1997, 2003, and 2014. Each successive expansion has reused and integrated the previous structure rather than erasing it, revealing the process of the architecture’s evolution.


In the 1980s, the retreat consisted of three tiny pavilions linked by wooden platforms. In 2003, the pavilions were connected by a unifying roof, creating a single form grounded onto the hillside and projecting out over the landscape. The living room’s large wall of glass frames a view of the adjoining grassy field and Puget Sound, visually blending indoors and outdoors. In 2014, a master bedroom and two guest rooms were added. I wanted the bedroom to stand out, and my wife Katherine loves to read, so I created a library that also works as circulation. We wanted a sense of refuge so I created a small enclosed private courtyard and surrounded the bed with solid wood walls. I experimented with more random patterns, and created a vista looking out into the beautiful woods, ending with a three-dimensional “magic window.”


The cabin is intentionally subdued in color and texture, allowing it to recede into the woods and defer to the beauty of the landscape. Materials enhance this natural connection, reflecting the silvery hues of the overcast Northwest sky and tying the building to the forest floor. Simple, readily available materials were used throughout: wood-framed walls are sheathed in plywood or recycled boards, inside and outside; doubled pairs of steel columns support beams that in turn support exposed roof structures. Interior spaces appear to flow seamlessly to the outside as materials continue from inside to out through invisible sheets of glass.


The cabin has been a work in progress since it began, with each transformation acknowledging my changing priorities: first a bunkhouse for friends, then an experimental weekend retreat for a young couple and family, and now, a quiet place for contemplation and creative work, and a comfortable place for visiting grandchildren, extended family, and friends.


 

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    In 1912, my grandparents built a summer cottage on a forested site on Puget Sound, and I spent summers and many weekends there as a child. When I was a first-year architecture student, my father gave me five hundred dollars and said, “Go build a bunkhouse”: my first great opportunity. Nestled amidst the trees of this waterside forest and raised on stilts, this tiny cabin sat respectfully on the landscape. When my grandparents’ cottage was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, the...

    Project details
    • Year 2014
    • Work finished in 2014
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Chalets, Mountains houses / Refuges
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