Everyone loves the idea of camping. Part of the allure is in breaking down the barriers between human and landscape. Peeling off our layers of protective covering, we expose our nerve endings to keener feeling. We revel in small observations that typically escape our notice, while at the same time, we perceive more acutely our deep connection to the powerful influences of the natural world. But still, most of us prefer a roof above us and a place to brush our teeth without peril. The following experiments in streamlined shelter explore what it means to pare down to bare essentials, without stripping the poetry from the poem.

Swamp Things

Dining, sleeping, bathing, relaxing. If you can fulfill this program, you have the basics of shelter and the answer to much of what the soul craves. For Keith Moskow, AIA, and Robert Linn, “Swamp Hut” answered a desire for an office retreat and family gathering place and, because they're architects, it provided a welcome opportunity for outside-the-box thinking.

Lot constraints limited the buildable site to just 1/8 of an acre of the swampy, 10-acre parcel in Newton, Mass., and required the architects to hand-carry materials along a dirt road. Playing with the tension between exposure and shelter, they distilled the retreat's components into two sleeping huts, an open-air picnic hut, and a bathing hut. The four teepeelike structures—built of stock lumber, translucent fiberglass panels, and galvanized steel connections—terminate the four sides of a platform deck, creating a feeling of primal protection. Designed for prefabrication, the kit of parts fits atop a flatbed truck.—S.C.C.

Architect: Moskow Linn Architects, Boston;
Builder: Moskow Design Build, Boston;
Photographers: Keith Moskow, AIA, and Robert Linn.