Catie Newell – Lone light


In search of a delicate touch and a deeper connection to the environment, the LONE LIGHT studio creates speculative designs and material prototypes for self-sufficient solitary research residencies. Anchored in visiting and designing for the UofM Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan, the research residencies are set deep in the woods as a small standalone architectural volume that serves living and studying, and minimal environmental impact. The UMBS is a10,000-acre property, that after massive deforestation in the early 1900s, has been actively reforested via natural processes. Ongoing research within this setting further defines forested sites with unique qualities, instruments and growth. These active outdoor labs provided the sites for the LONE LIGHT solitary research buildings. Strict standards of material use, life, and service are implemented and assessed, often pair to sites that are heavily used by hard to access. Site placement, material logics, project duration, and swings of day and night, are all critical components of this design practice.

The studio began with photography studies to introduce students to a keen way of seeing, capturing, and studying light, darkness and materials. The work quickly moved to site sensitive design intentions, processes and details. Small spaces with a light footprint both in construction processes and site locations were further studied to consider the benefits of small, well-attuned spaces. Early in the semester we travelled as a group for a weekend workshop at the UofM Biological Station that focused on site studies and material/immaterial experiments. This Proposition Studio was run in collaboration with the DMT ARCH 709 Advanced Prototyping course. The joint effort permitted both thorough material research and design investigation.

Topics of environmental responsibility and connection to natural settings were discussed as it related to the design, proposed construction, and ongoing use of the spaces.

Back to ARCH562 – Propositions

Student Work

Laura Lisbona – “Veil Verticis”

Veil Verticis responds to the need for a remote, residential research structure at the University of Michigan’s Biological Station. The Biological Station occupies 10,000 acres of protected land on the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Veil Verticis is sited in a wooded area of the station along the “Berm Trail,” a major raised pathway running throughout the property that was once a railroad track. The tower is designed around a central structural and programmatic core which allows the occupant to proceed around the entirety of each floor plan with uninterrupted views of the progressive forest layers. Changing light conditions, seasons, sounds, and vegetation can be all experienced by moving through the program. At the center of the core is an open lightwell. This lightwell provides illumination while also acting as a water collection system. Vertical beams seen on the tower’s exterior are reminiscent of the surrounding forest’s verticality as well as the proportions of the railway ties which once lined the adjacent pathway. These vertical members peel away from the massing as each new level to support observation decks. The topmost level of the project provides the ultimate experience; an open observation deck above the forest’s emergent layer offering views of quiet, Michigan forest for miles.

David Siepmann – “Douglas Lake Research Network”

Expanding the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston at Douglas Lake, the Building-Barges create a research network across the water effectively reducing the environmental footprint through a system of constructional logic and assembly. Each unit, acting as both building and barge, is assembled on the south side of Douglas Lake and will be floated to other, less accessible shores, eliminating the need to intrude through other protected natural habitats. Using the infrastructure of the existing station, this process avoids the negative impacts of heavy machinery on sites surrounding the lake, keeping the research forest as undisturbed as possible. Once the barge arrives at its destination, landing gear is deployed, firmly anchoring the unit in place for the duration of its stay. The pioneer unit consists of an overnight space for extended research as well as communal spaces for seminars and day work. Private and public spaces are separated by soft transitions between the folds of the building design. Parallel rhythms of the residential and visiting researchers contract and separate like a living organism, enabling a lively exchange during the day, while keeping the solitude of the natural setting undisturbed. The layered planks on the outside of the construction provide shaded, natural light on the interior. With growing demand, the station can be expanded easily using the same procedures. As more spaces are added, a small outpost turns into a fully operational research node.

Back to ARCH562 – Propositions

Blog at
%d bloggers like this: