Swamp Thing

written by:
February 2, 2010

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.

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  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.
    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.
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  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.
    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.
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  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.
    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.
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  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.
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  Shown here, the deck under construction.
    Shown here, the deck under construction.
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  Shown here, construction under way. One hut up, four to go.
    Shown here, construction under way. One hut up, four to go.
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  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.
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  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.
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  Shown here, the completed Swamp Hut.
    Shown here, the completed Swamp Hut.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
    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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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."

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