written by:
February 2, 2010
Originally published in Recipe for Success

With families in tow, architects Keith Moskow and Robert Linn settle in for a weekend of s'mores and camping in the unlikliest of locations: a simple structure built in the heart of the suburbs.

Though the Swamp Hut has only seen two New England winters so far, its plans have seen over 20. The project started two decades as the design for a retreat for Moskow's father-in-law, who lived in the Midwest and always dreamed of a small structure floati
Though the Swamp Hut has only seen two New England winters so far, its plans have seen over 20. The project started two decades as the design for a retreat for Moskow's father-in-law, who lived in the Midwest and always dreamed of a small structure floating over the fields. It was never realized over amber waves of grain but has been in and out of the architect's drawing drawers in the years between its inception and realization--as an Architecture for Humanity competition entry, disaster housing proposal, eco-resort lodging plan, and as an all too appropriate submission to the Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture Awards.
1 / 17
In the summer of 2008, the dream finally became a reality. Moskow and his siblings had inherited a ten-acre site in Newton, Massachusetts--just ten miles west of Boston--but had never done anything with it because only one-eighth of an acre was buildable.
In the summer of 2008, the dream finally became a reality. Moskow and his siblings had inherited a ten-acre site in Newton, Massachusetts--just ten miles west of Boston--but had never done anything with it because only one-eighth of an acre was buildable. The small space was, however, enough for the 580-square-foot structure.
2 / 17
Moskow and Linn prefabricated the 12-foot-high trusses and carried them--along with the additional two-by-fours, galvanized-steel connectors, and aluminum and fiberglass roof panels--to the site, which could only be accessed on foot by following a 500-foo
Moskow and Linn prefabricated the 12-foot-high trusses and carried them--along with the additional two-by-fours, galvanized-steel connectors, and aluminum and fiberglass roof panels--to the site, which could only be accessed on foot by following a 500-foot circuitous path through the wooded site.
3 / 17
With the help of friends, Moskow and Linn constructed the Swamp Hut in five weeks, saving them an estimated $15,000 in labor and making the total cost of the project just the $7,500 for materials.
With the help of friends, Moskow and Linn constructed the Swamp Hut in five weeks, saving them an estimated $15,000 in labor and making the total cost of the project just the $7,500 for materials.
4 / 17
Shown here, the deck under construction.
Shown here, the deck under construction.
5 / 17
Shown here, construction under way. One hut up, four to go.
Shown here, construction under way. One hut up, four to go.
6 / 17
The shape of the prefabricated trusses was inspired by sails and Moskow's father-in-law's love for boating. The collection of shelters is reminiscent of days past when groups of covered wagons traveled West.
The shape of the prefabricated trusses was inspired by sails and Moskow's father-in-law's love for boating. The collection of shelters is reminiscent of days past when groups of covered wagons traveled West.
7 / 17
The steep pitches let snow slide off the roofs and create enough room inside for both men and their families to stand up and stretch.
The steep pitches let snow slide off the roofs and create enough room inside for both men and their families to stand up and stretch.
8 / 17
Shown here, the completed Swamp Hut.
Shown here, the completed Swamp Hut.
9 / 17
 The Swamp Hut comprises four huts--the cleansing hut, table hut, and two sleeping huts--and and the central deck. Show here, the cleansing deck, where food can be kept and prepped.
The Swamp Hut comprises four huts--the cleansing hut, table hut, and two sleeping huts--and and the central deck. Show here, the cleansing deck, where food can be kept and prepped.
10 / 17
The table hut, shown here, and the central deck are the most popular areas of the Swamp Hut. "You can easily seat eight at the table--more when you squeeze in little kids," Linn says.
The table hut, shown here, and the central deck are the most popular areas of the Swamp Hut. "You can easily seat eight at the table--more when you squeeze in little kids," Linn says.
11 / 17
The Swamp Hut comfortably sleeps four in the two sleeping huts. "It's glorified camping," Moskow says, however, they follow standard backpacking rules of "pack in, pack out," bringing with them their own supply of water and nonperishable foods and carryin
The Swamp Hut comfortably sleeps four in the two sleeping huts. "It's glorified camping," Moskow says, however, they follow standard backpacking rules of "pack in, pack out," bringing with them their own supply of water and nonperishable foods and carrying out their trash at the end of a trip. There's a composting toilet, "but it's easier to go in the woods," he adds.
12 / 17
Moskow and Linn each head to the Swamp Hut with their families about once a month. "Most of the time is spent on the deck: cooking, talking, tending the fire, and trying not to burn the place," Linn says.
Moskow and Linn each head to the Swamp Hut with their families about once a month. "Most of the time is spent on the deck: cooking, talking, tending the fire, and trying not to burn the place," Linn says.
13 / 17
Shown here, the prefabricated trusses, built off-site and carried in. "We wanted to see if we could do architecture in a prefabricated, cost-effective way," Moskow says.
Shown here, the prefabricated trusses, built off-site and carried in. "We wanted to see if we could do architecture in a prefabricated, cost-effective way," Moskow says.
14 / 17
Moskow and Linn and their respective families cook all their own food when they stay at the Swamp Hut. Favorites: hot dogs, spaghetti, and marshmallows.
Moskow and Linn and their respective families cook all their own food when they stay at the Swamp Hut. Favorites: hot dogs, spaghetti, and marshmallows.
15 / 17
Shown here, the view at night from one sleeping hut to the other.
Shown here, the view at night from one sleeping hut to the other.
16 / 17
The trusses are topped with a semi-translucent fiberglass. "It provides privacy but allows light to come through," Linn says. "At night it looks like a glowing lantern."
The trusses are topped with a semi-translucent fiberglass. "It provides privacy but allows light to come through," Linn says. "At night it looks like a glowing lantern."
17 / 17
Though the Swamp Hut has only seen two New England winters so far, its plans have seen over 20. The project started two decades as the design for a retreat for Moskow's father-in-law, who lived in the Midwest and always dreamed of a small structure floati
Though the Swamp Hut has only seen two New England winters so far, its plans have seen over 20. The project started two decades as the design for a retreat for Moskow's father-in-law, who lived in the Midwest and always dreamed of a small structure floating over the fields. It was never realized over amber waves of grain but has been in and out of the architect's drawing drawers in the years between its inception and realization--as an Architecture for Humanity competition entry, disaster housing proposal, eco-resort lodging plan, and as an all too appropriate submission to the Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture Awards.

Most people head into the woods or out to the country to escape the city’s daily grind, but when Boston-based architects Keith Moskow and Robert Linn need a weekend away with their families, they drive to the suburbs. Their unlikely destination is a construction in Newton, Massachusetts—–just seven miles west of Beantown—–that they call the Swamp Hut.

The project started 20 years ago as a little house on a prairie, when Moskow, coprincipal of Moskow Linn Architects, designed a small structure for his father-in-law. The retreat was never realized, though the plans have been in and out of the drafting drawers countless times since—–winning awards as a disaster-housing proposal, an eco-resort lodging plan, and, all too appropriately, unbuilt architecture.

In the summer of 2008, the architects finally put their tweaks to the test. “We wanted to see if we could do architecture in a prefabricated, cost-effective way,” Moskow says. Years earlier, he and his siblings had inherited a ten-acre site that had since sat empty.

In the summer of 2008, the dream finally became a reality. Moskow and his siblings had inherited a ten-acre site in Newton, Massachusetts--just ten miles west of Boston--but had never done anything with it because only one-eighth of an acre was buildable.
In the summer of 2008, the dream finally became a reality. Moskow and his siblings had inherited a ten-acre site in Newton, Massachusetts--just ten miles west of Boston--but had never done anything with it because only one-eighth of an acre was buildable. The small space was, however, enough for the 580-square-foot structure.

Only one-eighth of an acre was buildable, but that small space was enough for the 580-square-foot structure. Moskow and Linn built the 12-foot-high trusses in a workshop, then carried them down the meandering 200-yard path to the site. Over five weeks, they pieced the parts together to form four huts flanking a central square deck. It was a formidable task, but their elbow grease saved the pair an estimated $15,000 in labor, making the total cost just $7,500 for materials.

The parts and the plan have proven a success. The roofs of the huts are well suited for the winter: Snow slides off the steep pitches, and the tall, triangular spaces create shelters big enough to house the architects and their families. Most of their time, however, is spent outside on the central deck, roasting marshmallows and “trying not to burn the place down,” Linn jokes.

Linn calls weekends at the Swamp Hut “glorified camping.” There’s no running water, so they carry their own supply. They also bring nonperishable foods—–like spaghetti and hot dogs—–to cook over the fire, since there’s no electricity. There’s a composting toilet, “but it’s easier to go in the woods,” Moskow says. At the end of a visit, they haul their garbage out with them.

Moskow and Linn prefabricated the 12-foot-high trusses and carried them--along with the additional two-by-fours, galvanized-steel connectors, and aluminum and fiberglass roof panels--to the site, which could only be accessed on foot by following a 500-foo
Moskow and Linn prefabricated the 12-foot-high trusses and carried them--along with the additional two-by-fours, galvanized-steel connectors, and aluminum and fiberglass roof panels--to the site, which could only be accessed on foot by following a 500-foot circuitous path through the wooded site.

Chirping birds and rustling leaves drown out noise from nearby streets. The remaining sounds are the gleeful screams of Moskow’s and Linn’s kids as they explore the skunk cabbage and pussy willows. Not bad for a weekend in suburbia.
 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016