Gator House.  False River, LA 2018

Off a state highway along a "false" river, an oxbow lake made by the Mississippi, lies a narrow site which slopes to the water, shaded by a 100-year-old cypress tree. Descending the slope, a long skinny camp lies ready for summer weekends and fishing.

In Louisiana, where the natural environment is volatile, wet, hot, humid, and extremely fragile, most buildings seek to resist these extreme conditions. Contrary to the conventional approach, GATOR House encourages interaction with Louisiana's natural environment. Primarily, it creates human comfort in the seemingly uncomfortable and privileges social interaction in generous outdoor social living spaces. More porch than interior room, almost all occupancy happens under roof or in the shade of the tree. This includes living, dining, cooking, celebrating, and bathing. Using natural ventilation, fans, and deep shade, heat, humidity, and insects are controlled to establish human comfort outdoors. Secondly, it is raised above grade to protect from flooding and is made from materiality that does not rot, resists insects, can get wet, and be wiped down when it gets dirty.

The camp consists of three sleeping rooms, a kitchen (indoor and outdoor), two "living" porches, one long side porch, two bathrooms, and a mezzanine. The lower-level porch functions as a dining area, and the upper-level porch acts as the home’s living room. Off the upper porch, the guest bathroom is split into two parts (a shower room on one side and a toilet room on the other) to allow for simultaneous use. On the side porch, a wall of welded wire fabric provides handy hanging storage for life-vests, floaties, paddles, and other water-sport accessories. A mezzanine over the lower-level porch provides easy attic access which doubles as a kids’ escape. All porches are screened, maximize ventilation and shade, and can be completely secured with nine roll-up doors when the owners return to the city for work.  

The owners asked that the camp to be durable and low-to-no maintenance. To fulfill this request, the exterior walls and roof are skinned in durable galvalume v-crimp and corrugated metal while the floors are composite lumber decking, recycled vinyl flooring, and tile for easy clean-up. The kitchen re-purposes an antique sink and uses sealed reclaimed cypress for shelves and counters, making a material connection to the large cypress tree visible from the kitchen window. Through the use of recyclable, recycled, or reclaimed materials, the goal was to create an occupancy that can last and resists construction waste.

A camp is a wet and dirty space and the context, although densely populated, is still the country. Gator House handles these variables and allows the owners complete relaxation and enjoyment at their getaway