The retreat creates two distinct meditative spaces through its relationships to the landscape. The first, a floating wooden deck measures the falling forest floor below. The second, a small, dimly lit enclosure sinks through the ground. Both intensify a spiritual experience of the place.
I discovered that my mom was going to a secluded spot in the woods to escape from her daily routine. She found an old and unusually large dogwood tree, where she sat on a section of log, her “prayer stump”. A treeless space on the other side of the small hill suggested possibilities for additional retreat-like spaces. The situation suggested the spatial model of a boat: a small, protective, introspective space of a boat’s hull below an expansive floating space of a boat’s deck.
The hull is a 7 feet wide, 8 feet long space half-sunken into the earth. Three small windows frame views into the landscape. A light chimney filters light into the space. The stucco CMU walls of the hull continue into the ground, embrace the earth and the visitor . The light chimney and the wood-framed, tin roof complete the enclosure.
The bisecting deck is cantilevered over the landscape producing the floating, experience. Two trees puncture the deck forming a threshold to the end. At the end you are standing approximately 10’ above the ground with no apparent clue as to how the deck is supported.
A number of restrictive construction conditions influenced the design and the assembly methods. The site is isolated with no electricity, so materials had to be pre-cut and then assembled on site. I devised other creative construction techniques to construct the project on my own. Concrete, mortar, and stucco were mixed on site. Cost was kept to a minimum by using common materials such as CMU, wood, and tin.
Location: Marbury, Alabama
Construction Completed: 2000
Cost: $1500(Some material reused. Labor not accounted for)