Kikko, the heroine of Akiko Miyakoshi’s A Tea Party in the Woods, follows her father’s snowy tracks into a silent winter forest. Her red hat and mittens are the only color in a gray expanse. Just when she begins to feel lost, she arrives unexpectedly at the steps of a mysterious mansion. Colors build on the page as Kikko ventures inside for tea, pastries, and an impromptu parade with a houseful of dapperly dressed forest creatures. They eventually return her to grandmother’s house then fade back into the silent gray forest so suddenly that she wonders…
Maybe Kikko was managing her fear of the forest’s eerie quiet by relating to it quixotically in a daydream. Children’s books have a long tradition of anthropomorphism. Kikko comes to mind because the environmental anthropomorphism -or ecomorphism- in her story, recalls Aldo Leopold’s use of the same device in his influential Land Ethic. Concerned that an increasingly urban population was becoming alienated from the land, Leopold appealed to his readers to “think like a mountain”. He popularized this empathy for the wilderness with his pen, and construed it’s stewardship as a civic imperative beyond simple human self interest. Toward the same ends but so much more viscerally, Benton McKaye envisioned the Appalachian trail. He invited the whole world to set their books down, to strap their boots on, and to come out and feel the wilderness.
Imaginative, conscientious and daring, those three visions of reciprocal human interaction with nature have all made their mark on this proposal. Not only as a base for outdoor excursions but in the fabric of its architectural devices, Carrabassett Hall is designed for an authentic and unabashedly human experience of its wilderness setting- for fun, even if your scared, in the spirit of adventure and yes, as a civic imperative. In the versatile spirit of ecomorphism- Miyakoshi’s, Leopold’s, and everything in between- we set out to design a building that would borrow attributes from its breathtaking natural surroundings and would project the wilderness in all its majesty though the prisms of its guests’ consciousness.
Carrabassett Hall was developed as an entry for the 2018 Maine Mass Timber Design Competition with Aurimas Bukauskas. The project began with an evening kickoff charrette attended by an all-star cast. Special thanks to Charlotte Bouvier, David Mahany, Ziggy Drozdowski, and Rusty Lamer for good camaraderie and invaluable input.