Into the Wild

How two architects designed and assembled their dream camp in Newton.

The Inspiration
Twenty years ago, architect Keith Moskow drew up plans for a temporary camp for his Missouri-based father-in-law, who loved both the prairie and the sea. Like a boat floating on the ocean, the easily assembled and disassembled structure was designed to hover over the rising wheat. But the project didn’t actually materialize until the summer of 2008, when Moskow and his business partner, Robert Linn, finally had the time to take it on themselves.

The Construction
The architects modified the design to create a 384-square-foot camp for a wetlands property in Newton that Moskow had inherited from his grandparents. They got their hands dirty for this one – five full weekends of recruiting friends and family to help build 12-foot-high trusses and dig holes for the pilings on which the four huts would sit. “As an architect, it was refreshing to finally get sweaty and put some physical labor into a project,” says Linn.

The Details
According to zoning, only the tiniest swath of the 10-acre space was buildable, so the small, simple abode, affectionately named the Swamp Hut, was a perfect fit. With no running water or electricity, it’s technically designated as a temporary structure – a “glorified campsite,” says Moskow – which makes it the quintessential spot for roasting marshmallows, observing woodchucks and deer, and sleeping (almost) under the stars.

The Result
The four “huts” radiate from a 14-foot-by-14-foot courtyard, which features an open area for grilling in its center. The roofless south hut is where Moskow and his family relax and enjoy dinner on beautiful summer evenings. The north hut has an aluminum roof to shelter the composting toilet and “kitchen” (no Sub-Zero here, just counter space to assemble sandwiches and s’mores). The east and west huts are for sleeping – they’re built with translucent fiberglass roofs that let in light but keep cots dry. Best of all, the design doesn’t interfere with the site’s natural beauty: Two towering pine trees arch over the courtyard to form a “V” that frames the sky, and the elevated construction makes way for continual growth of the native wisteria. “This is just a pleasing place to be,” says Moskow. “My whole family loves to come here and get away from everything else.”

A Look Inside…
Moskow covered the kitchen hut with sheets of aluminum flashing for its light-reflective properties.
After nailing the aluminum to the trusses, he covered the holes with wood strips using galvanized nails.
The trusses were constructed off-site and carried in by friends and family. A view from the kitchen hut.
Cased openings let in both air and light.

The Bottom Line
Moskow and Linn hope others will build their own Swamp Hut. “It’s a very adaptable project,” says Linn. “It could be set up in the rainforest, the prairie, or a swamp. It’s something that anyone could build anywhere.” At about $7,500