We recently completed an experimental project called the Nest, a small shelter that is off the grid.
Sited on a hillside, overlooking Lake Superior, the Nest is an experiment in contemporary elemental shelter. It’s geometric forms are in dialogue with the surrounding natural setting. Constructed of modest, utilitarian and economical materials; it is an armature for experiencing nature, that simultaneously acts as a counterpoint to technological complexity.
The ensemble is composed of three primary elements: a box, a screen and a wooden boardwalk. The box, envisioned as a sheltered container for living, is a wood-framed construction, clad in black metal that floats above the landscape on 8 piers. The south-facing facade is animated by two 12 foot high wooden doors that close off the building when not in use. When opened, they form a protected porch; revealing a wall of operable glazing. The box is flanked by a filigree shower screen, which supports a sand filtered water cistern for the outdoor shower. These elements are woven together with the landscape by a meandering angular wooden boardwalk that morphs from path to bench.
The container-like structure is organized into three vertical zones. The lower level is a multi-functional space that can be reconfigured for different uses by the occupant. The structural framing is exposed on the interior and a series of built-in furniture elements are inserted. Folding wooden chairs are stored on wall hooks. A toilet, wash basin, table and bed fold out from the walls to accommodate the rituals of daily life, and are stowed away when not in use. A ladder along the wall leads up to a landing and sleeping loft with generous glazing to the north and south. A second ladder allows access from the loft to a rooftop observation Nest, which provides a commanding view of the surrounding trees, sky and Lake Superior in the distance.
Utilitarian and simple strategies keep the building "off the grid". Lighting is provided by solar lanterns that are charged outside during the day, and are brought inside to light the interior when night falls. A dry-flush toilet and water jug eliminate the need for plumbing.
In a hectic world, there is a pleasure that may be found in slowing down and simplifying. As a contemporary reinterpretation of the archetypal “little cabin in the woods”, the Nest facilitates a primitive lifestyle, in which nature can be experienced. By going "off the grid", the Nest provides retreat from fast-paced urban living and allows occupants the opportunity to connect with their roots.