Rabbit Island Architecture Competition: Will Holman

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“One might regard architecture as history arrested in stone.” // A.L. Rowse, The Use of History

Rabbit Island is a sanctuary for art, a place for intellectual solitude, for isolation, reflection, creation. The products of the place will not dwell there; rather, the songs or poems or paintings brought to life on its shores will find a home elsewhere. Their creators, too, will drift on.

The only piece of art to stay on Rabbit Island will be the shelter for these artists and their activities. Given the geologic scale of time embedded in teh stone there, I regard any structure on the surface of the island as a ruin in the making, a long-term installation whose construction is merely the first act in a long sequence of decay, renewal, and eventual dissolution.

To that end, my proposal for the cabin is simple and monumental. Two stone walls and a set of piers create boundaries and structural support, and will remain after the wood structure cradled between them disappears, a memorial commemorating the creative acts that once sheltered within.

One day, a wandering fisherman may find shelter in these ruins, using the old walls to dry his catch and deflect the wind around his frail tent. 

In the meantime lightweight materials, and dimensions based on at 4’ x 8’ module combine to make a quick, buildable cabin. An overall footprint of 40’ x 16’, plus a 6’ porch, is small enough to build cheaply, with limited labor and tools. No piece of lumber is more than 16’ long or 12’’ wide, allowing for both on-site milling of island timber and easy transport of store-bought components. Slipform stone construction makes short work of the end walls, and the formwork would be recycled into sheathing, framing, and subflooring.

Sliding patio doors line the south side for plentiful passive heat and daylight. Matching windows on the north side provide powerful cross-ventilation in the summer. Wood heat makes use of the island’s resources. A shed roof makes convenient mounting for future solar panels while simplifying rainwater collection. A masive porch and set of stairs create a stage for performances and a place for contemplation.

To separate life and work, and to emphasize the temporary nature of both art and one’s stay on the island, the current shelter would be modified into an artist studio. Artists would commute to work, reinforcing a sense of place, space, and time. Space is available to accommodate up to a half-dozen, perhaps more, temporarily, for a performance or other special event.