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2nd Annual Cabin Life Design Competition

Published: May 8, 2013
Welcome to the second annual Cabin Life Design Competition, featuring 10 new cabin designs from architecture students at the University of Minnesota and North Carolina State University.

We asked Cabin Life readers, newsletter recipients and the public to help us decide the winner of the competition by casting their vote for their favorite cabin design. The winners of the Design Competition will be revealed in the October 2013 issue of Cabin Life, on newsstands August 13! Subscribe today so you don't miss this exciting issue!

These designs (each one less than 1,750 square feet) were hand-picked for the competition by Dale Mulfinger, FAIA, professor in practice at the University of Minnesota Department of Architecture, and by Georgia Bizios, FAIA, professor at North Carolina State University School of Architecture, College of Design. Scroll down to view all 10 designs.

Brian Gaudio, North Carolina State University
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Copyright © 2013, Brian Gaudio. All rights reserved.
Exterior Rendering
This 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom cabin is situated near the Haw River in Chatham County, N.C. Designed for an anthropology professor and her cat, Sophie, “The Cat’s Meow” is a cozy place for the client and her cat to relax on weekends in the fall.
     The cabin layout is structured around the client’s weekend routine. Having lived in Malawi for years, the client structures her day based on the sun’s path; wherever the sun shines, she is. Therefore, in the wee hours of the morning she can indulge in a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise while sitting in the east-facing screened porch. In the mid-morning she can eat breakfast and watch birds in the east-facing living room. 
     At noon, she can throw clothes in the washing machine and meander into the woods for a nature walk. When she returns, she will eat lunch in the dining room, then hang her laundry on the clotheslines (an activity that brings back fond memories of spending weekends at her grandparents' house). After dinner, she can visit the bird bath and place food in the bird feeders. Finally, in the evening she will enjoy reading in the west-facing library and watch the sunset.
     This peaceful retreat is just what she needs to relax after a busy week teaching university classes, and the spaces are tailored to her hobbies of birdwatching and reading.

Katelyn Geurkink, University of Minnesota
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Copyright © 2013, Katelyn Jo Geurkink. All rights reserved.
Exterior Model
The Lost Cabin is designed to be an efficient four-season oasis for a growing family, complete with unforgettable views of Lake Vermilion in Minnesota. The name of the cabin describes its location, lost in the depths of a heavily wooded forest.
    The main floor contains the master bedroom, kitchen, dining room and living room, which extend out toward the lake. Large spans of windows envelop the gathering areas, giving the illusion of a much larger area and blurring the boundary between interior and exterior. The fireplace acts as a central heating core of the cabin as it's consistently placed between the differently oriented floors.
    The lower level sits into the side of the hill, allowing for natural insulation, as well as creating a feeling of coziness and warmth for the bedrooms, bathroom and den.
    Perched above the main floor is the screened-in porch. One enters this meditative and relaxing area through an insulated trap door. The 360-degree views allow occupants to experience breathtaking sights of the lake and forest.
    The cabin is sited atop a large hill as part of a water runoff strategy. Many operable windows allow for both direct solar gain and maximum air ventilation. At night, the interior lighting illuminates the cabin, and that which was once lost is now found.

Daniel Goldstein, North Carolina State University
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Copyright © 2013, Daniel Goldstein. All rights reserved.
Exterior Rendering
The client for this project is Professor Michael F. Singer, a mathematics professor at North Carolina State University. Professor Singer lives with his wife and has grandchildren who visit often.
    When the weather permits, Professor Singer spends most of his time on the screened-in porch at his current home. He likes to take naps outside. He and his wife eat and entertain on their porch, away from bugs.
    Hiking, biking and canoeing are among the professor's favorite hobbies, so the cabin has a close connection to the river. It also has a bedroom for him and his wife and a separate sleeping area for the grandchildren. Finally, there is a study that Professor Singer requested as a place to get away from all of the commotion happening in the rest of the cabin.

Amanda Krapf, University of Minnesota
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Copyright © 2013, Amanda Krapf. All rights reserved.
Exterior Rendering
Perched on a rocky slope overlooking Lake Vermilion, the Tree House was designed as a weekend getaway for a young couple looking for a place to spend quality time with friends and family. A contemporary, yet comfortable northwoods cabin arose from reconciling the differing design desires of the couple.
    The Tree House has a central sleeping core that cultivates a sense of closeness for up to eight people, while the main living space wraps around the core on the second level. The three sleeping levels are stacked in the Cor-Ten steel core of the structure and are named according to their characteristics: "The Bedrock Room," "Forest Views," and "The Canopy Room."
    The main level features an open floor plan, including a kitchen with bar-height seating and a cozy living room with a framed view of the lake. The corner of the main level is floor-to-ceiling glass, perfect for taking in views of the lake while dining and playing cards.
    The entire cabin is just over 1,200 square feet. Like a traditional tree house, the design incorporates a maximum amount of outdoor living space. A screened-in porch and deck wrap around the cabin from the west end to the north end, and a large deck is located on the third level just off of The Canopy Room.
    The beautiful forest that occupies the site inspired the material palette of the Tree House. The weathered wood exterior blends into the birch woods, while the Cor-Ten steel core, reminiscent of red pine bark, stands out against winter snow.

Julio C. Martinez, North Carolina State University
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Copyright © 2013, Julio C. Martinez. All rights reserved.
Exterior Rendering
The Literary Retreat was designed for a head librarian who longed for a home that would exhibit her love of books. An integral part of the retreat is its central bookshelf wall. The wall functions both as the main structural member and a place to showcase her large collection of books and keepsakes. This spine-like structure holds up a roof that unfolds, directing visitors out to enjoy views of the site. The roof then extends out and over porches, allowing the indoors to spill out under a canopy of leaves or branches depending on the time of the year.
    The cabin is designed for year-round living. This is why it is divided into two integral parts – the main level as the public space and the lower level as the private dwelling. Reading rooms are incorporated into both levels.

Abigail Schmidt, University of Minnesota
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Copyright © 2013, Abigail Schmidt. All rights reserved.
Exterior Model
The Birder's Paradise is a cabin designed for an avid birder who wants to escape from the city life and become fully immersed in the natural environment of northern Minnesota. The 1,700-square-foot cabin allows for the integration of nature and cabin living in a multidisciplinary way. It includes two lofted sleeping areas, living space, public and private balconies, and an upper-level garden to supply the ultimate paradise for any birder. This design fuses cabin living and the sky above, providing a place to both attract birds of many species and grow food without threat from deer.
    Other features of the cabin include a bird bath, a roof system that enables rainwater capture, a "birdscaping" landscape proposal, and bird-safe windows that are manufactured to prevent bird collisions. The cabin is divided into two separate buildings, connected together by the garden that acts as a threshold. The sprawling open plan allows for multiple views and bird-viewing areas while maintaining the cozy setting of a cabin.

Erica Schwartz, University of Minnesota
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Copyright © 2013, Erica Schwartz. All rights reserved.
Exterior Model
A hearth symbolizes a place of gathering and retreat from everyday life, and that is the inspiration for this lake cabin design. Spatial planning allows for several inhabitants to engage in communal activities. The post-and-beam construction allows for a more modern, open space but maintains a more traditional cabin aesthetic.
    Situated on a wooded peninsula sloping south, there is a 270-degree lake view. Upon arrival, one has the option of bypassing the cabin and going directly to the dock, which retains the focus on the lake.
    Entering on a half level, the cabin then "opens up" to the lake on the south side. Windows provide views and daylight, and accordion doors allow for the patio and dining areas to become one seamless space with sunset views.
    On the northern side, the cabin is built into the hill, creating a place of community bonding and a cozy retreat. Also along the northern side is a windowed reading nook that provides further retreat into the woods.
    To accommodate a large group of people, there are different sleeping areas that serve different needs. An away room is detached from the home and receives strong morning light; a lofted area above the hearth allows for continued connection to the rest of the cabin; and a western bedroom with a private deck allows for more seclusion.

Taylor Smith, North Carolina State University
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Copyright © 2013, Taylor Smith. All rights reserved.
Exterior Rendering
The Floating Porch Retreat, located in Pittsboro, N.C., along the Haw River, is designed for a biology and genetics major at North Carolina State University. She wanted a space to get away from her studies and relax, but she also wanted to be able to spend time with a large group of friends and take advantage of the access to the water by canoeing and kayaking.The client also wanted indoor spaces that connected with the surrounding nature, as well as spaces for cooking, playing board games and watching movies.
    Nearly blending in with its surroundings, the cabin could go unnoticed if you didn't know that it was there. Once you enter the retreat, you are met with incredible views of the river. Large windows that overlook the water give you a feeling of calmness and a connection to nature.

Alyssa Renee Tope, University of Minnesota
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Copyright © 2013, Alyssa Renee Tope. All rights reserved.
Exterior Model
This net-zero energy cabin was designed for a client and her husband who wanted a small, private getaway on a lakeside site in northern Minnesota. It is intentionally designed to be one level in order to make all parts of the cabin accessible at any age.
    The craft room doubles easily as a guest bedroom with a pull-down Murphy bed. Since the client is a fisherman, the kitchen counter extends outside to provide a low-maintenance fish cleaning station.
    The following features allow the design to be net-zero energy: orientation (windows on the south-facing wall), small square footage, thermal mass wall and Tulikivi soapstone stove (both store heat), solar reflector (for daylighting), solar thermal water heater, building-integrated photovoltaic shingles, and stack effect (natural ventilation).
    The separate support system necessary for the 4,255-pound Tulikivi stove is a visible pillar that also supports the cantilever made of cross-laminated lumber.
    Design specifications: 895 square feet; 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom; year-round use or easily winterized; heating: Tulikivi fireplace/bake oven (Model: TLU2137; heats up to 1,200 sq. ft.).

Ellie Ziaie, University of Minnesota
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Copyright © 2013, Ellie Ziaie. All rights reserved.
Exterior Model
The design for the Breezway Cabin reflects the client’s desire for a sustainable, modern cabin to escape the busy city life and relax while taking advantage of the natural environment and outdoor activities. The design of the cabin emphasizes the site’s panoramic views of Lake Vermilion. It also uses the topography: The northwest corner of the cabin is tucked into the ground to protect it from winter winds and keep the building cooler during the summer months.
    The cabin’s southern orientation utilizes the sun for both passive daylighting and heating. The main living area is separate from the guesthouse, allowing for sustainable energy use (the client can heat only the spaces needed to accommodate guests). The covered space between the main cabin and the guesthouse creates a flexible outdoor space that is protected from rain and sun for seasonal use.
    Passive solar strategies incorporated throughout the cabin include passive heating and lighting, thermal, window orientation, overhangs and passive ventilation. The stone flooring balances temperature swings throughout the day. Energy is collected by solar panels, and the amount of solar energy generated on-site will surpass the amount required for the cabin. The butterfly roof was specifically designed to allow for a waterfall feature in front of the cabin, where rainwater is diverted to a collection system. Rainwater and gray water are both reused on site for irrigation and plumbing conveying systems.

Voting for the Design Competition has now ended. To see the winners, check out the October 2013 issue of Cabin Life, on newsstands August 13! Or subscribe today to get your copy!
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