Give a person some trees and fresh air and sooner or later they’ll start quoting Henry David Thoreau. Give them some wood and glass, and they’ll build an architectural homage to the famed naturalist. Consider designer Marc Thorpe’s Edifice, a 500-square-foot cabin in upstate New York’s Catskills region.
Inspired by Thoreau and fellow Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief of communing with nature, the rectangular cabin is an exercise in reduction. The exterior is clad in planks of charred timber, which disguise an entrance on the side of the house. At one end of the cabin there’s a recessed deck that evokes an old-school farmhouse porch.
Inside, the cabin is equally unembellished but striking nonetheless. The layout is split into four zones—“live, cook, dine, and sleep.” And all of the mechanical systems are designed for off-grid living, including solar panels, water harvesting, and a compostable toilet. A wood-burning stove heats the space.
Of course, Thoreau never had accommodations quite as sleek as the Edifice, but it’s hard to deny the cabin’s commitment to simplicity. “The Edifice is a belief, a belief in individuality and self-reliance,” Thorpe says. “I wanted to find a sense of internal peace within myself through the act of architecture.”