SACO LAKE LODGE
Academic | Carnegie Mellon University | Second Year Studio II | January 2014 through March 2014
The Saco Lake Lodge project was a studio competition sponsored by the Concrete Masonry Association, designed around engaging the simple 8” by 8” by 16” standard concrete masonry unit in a way that was honest and integral to the project. What do concrete masonry units do? They stand as a counterpoint to virtually every other construction system in common use, especially light skeletal wood or metal frames. A conceptual framework timeless and monolithic object emergent in the New Hampshire valley in which the lodge was situated crept into my partner’s and my repertoire. People go into the mountains and hike for days for the experience of seeing emergent natural structures, and we realized that our project could not interfere with that mindset. The bath house needed to not necessarily imitate nature, but it became a prerogative to make something that held true to the rugged nature of the site.
Running with the idea of making the bathhouse an emergent object, we decided to have the building literally project out of the ground in which it was embedded. The project criteria called for a hostel area for a minimum of ten places to shelter hikers moving along the Appalachian Trail in addition to the traditional parts of the bathhouse—the changing rooms, the frigidarium, the tepidarium, and the caldarium. Moving away from the experiential qualities of the building and abstract concepts like timelessness and monumentality, my partner and I diagrammed the program experience of the building free, freeing ourselves from spatial constraints in the early design process. What we ended up were two major experiential groups—the kitchen/hearth and sleeping space on one side, and the bathing area. Further defining the space were fixed nodes that we identified, namely, the mudroom situated at the entrance of the structure and the changing area that separated the ‘dirty’ floor of the main area of the building from the ‘clean’ floor in the bathing area. Beyond that the building’s program needn’t be restricted to a specific sequence of spatial experiences.
When it came time to synthesize the ephemeral qualities with the practical aspects of the project, we took full advantage of the monumental qualities of concrete masonry units, especially their utility when holding back earth and supporting immense vertical loads. The rest of the project—the foundations and the roof structure that held the earth above—was poured concrete, resulting in a highly honest, expressive structural system. The monumentality of the project was realized in the almost simplistic rectangular footprint punctuated with a series of slits and skylights highlighting interior program elements.