An Architect’s Cabin Rises From the Ashes After a Devastating Forest Fire

Minimalism is taken to the max when architect Eric Logan rebuilds his family cabin on a Wyoming mountainside.

It’s as stark as it gets. Inside, you’ll find a counter for food prep, a tiny bit of storage, a few modern chairs, a flashlight, one wood stove—and "a nice stash of gin," says owner and project architect Eric Logan.

Tucked in the forest of Casper Mountain in Wyoming, The Phoenix is his primitive, two-room shelter where you won’t find any bedrooms or bathrooms, let alone running water or electricity. "It’s more about the really raw experience in the forest," says Logan, principal at Carney Logan Burke Architects.

One of architect Eric Logan's goals was to make better use of the site. "With the void in the forest made by the absence of a building, we made a decision to push the building to the edge, celebrating the big views to south," he says.

The Phoenix is what owner and architect Eric Logan describes as a cool little folly in the woods. "The whole folly experience is the thing," he says. "It's why I like living in the west."

That experience—that connection—to the forest is significant for Logan, particularly after a brush fire in 2013 destroyed dozens of buildings, including his family cabin. After the devastation, Logan and his sisters rebuilt, reinventing a structure for the family’s modern-day needs. The result is a stark contrast to the original 1970s cabin, which had become a quaint repository for antiques and old furniture. Maintaining integrity of the structure’s now-delicate environment, Logan chose a more austere approach for the project. "The minimalist quality of the architecture reinforces the notion that it’s not about stuff; it’s about place and about the experience in forest," says Logan.

A wood stove completes the enclosed room of the structure. Just two rooms make up The Phoenix: one open room and this enclosed room, home to minimal storage.

Standing, dead charred timber became the post-and-beam structure, connecting the project with the forest and creating a lasting reminder of its storied past.

Built on the edge of where the former cabin stood, the project is inspired by its surroundings. Charred trees from the forest took new life as the cabin’s post-and-beam structure, helping with the continuity, and the inside surfaces are either raw plywood or galvanized metal, resulting in a utilitarian feel and no maintenance needs. The low-impact project rests upon the slope ever so slightly, with just eight points where the shelter touches the forest clearing. "It was about trying to maximize the use of the disturbances that had already been created by the site, but improving on what we had there," says Logan.

"The minimalist quality of the architecture reinforces the notion that it’s not about stuff; it’s about place and about the experience in forest." 

—Eric Logan, owner and architect

"Because of the fire, the landscape is familiar but different," says Logan. While all the mature forest has been destroyed, the Aspens are growing back in what Logan describes as a "really raw experience in the forest."

The steel firebox situated on the central axis is a ruin from the fire and functions as a centerpiece for outdoor space. "It's kind of a beautiful marker for the site—quite a dramatic contrast with shiny abstract," says Logan.

Today, the structure serves less as storage and more as living space: a picnic spot frequently used by parents, a rest area between rock climbing, and ultimately, a place to detach with technology and connect with people and place. Says Logan, "It’s a nice addition to this part of the world our family grew to know and love so well."

A brush fire in 2013 destroyed some 40 buildings in the Casper Mountain forest and charred much of the vegetation. "As the forest returns and the Aspens take over again, we’ll have a silvery box that lives under a canopy of green trees," says Logan.

The interior surfaces of The Phoenix are either raw plywood or galvanized metal resulting in a utilitarian feel with no maintenance needs.

"There's the same problem with every project: how to do something meaningful from a design standpoint and do it with very few dollars," says Logan. "We reduced and reduced and made it work for what was a very paltry budget. It has impact and creates place; it's a nice addition to this part of the world our family grew to know and love so well."

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Carney Logan Burke Architects

General Contractor: Two Man Crew

Structural Engineer: KL&A, Inc.


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