Sometimes great work comes from exploring simple materials. Perhaps no structure expresses this more than the iconic log cabin, a genuine product of simple and rustic materials put together in efficient and practical ways. The Minneapolis architecture firm of CityDeskStudio recently designed an update to the traditional log home with a modern play on materials, reinterpreting the log pattern as a graphic texture, while still maintaining its original rustic spirit.
This modern cabin completes an extended family ensemble of log cabins that first began decades ago, each perched upon a forested slope overlooking a small lake in Northern Wisconsin. This logged landscape serves as an evolutionary chart, featuring four different cabins ranging from whole-tree chinked boxes to framed structures with applied log siding. When asked to add a new cabin to the set, CityDesk decided to reinvent the log motif as a series of quilted textures and patterns applied to a simple structure, rather than draw directly from the lineage of ancestral cabins.
Walking down hill from the original structures towards the new 2500 square foot cabin, one first sees a large earthen berm. Only after getting closer do you realize the landscape is concealing a one-story shed building covered in a sedum green roof. The front walk is the gap between the berm and richly textured log appliqué of the wall. Initially CityDesk had hoped to create earthen walls from the same log texture, but the effect is not lost with the readily available rusty black granite walls. The stone closely relating to the color of the thick Corten fascia and trim that frame the alternating log panels. Each series of log panels serve as a rain-screen and their varying scale is visually divided by a rhythmic steel batten. The rustic façade gives way to a large expanse of smooth commercial glass which wraps the entire corner of the home to draw focus towards the lake.
The interior structure is also set up to focus on this corner view. The main level is a large open living space for two families with two separate master suites (the kids reign on the walkout level). The living space is framed with exposed reclaimed 2x16 timber joists oriented diagonally. They are spaced in a gradient pattern staggered from 2’ on center and get increasingly closer together as they get near the outside wall. This captures the eye and puts focus on the corner which is dissolved with the floor-to-ceiling glass, strongly linking the interior to the outside views.
The interior finishes are again simple, rustic and repetitive, but inventive. A carpet of grouted pebbles leads you into the cabin from the outside. The stones grow in scale with the masonry fireplace and stairway railing, but maintain a similar texture. The rustic masonry is punctuated with industrial steel circles that literally dot the interior as yet another unifying material to the Corten on the exterior. Dark wood floors, cabinets and trim create continuity with the log exterior. However on the inside the log siding is only experienced as an abstract pattern obscured by frosted glass, creating a visually interesting play of mass and void.
This family collection of log cabins through the ages is a unique opportunity to explore regional architecture and its evolution. By exploring how simple, natural materials can become adapted into modernist architecture, CityDeskStudio has again found a way to reinterpret simple vernacular architecture and make it surprisingly new. It’s a lesson that good architecture can come from tradition and still be inventive and fun.
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