The GATOR House is a camp. The Camp in southern Louisiana is a vacation home. Traditionally, the camp typology served as a fishing and hunting haven; minimal in luxury, requiring little to no energy, mostly rough, and only seasonally occupied. Once a rustic space for storing fishing and hunting gear, it has taken on additional uses to become a cherished gathering place for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors – camps are part fishing and hunting cleaning stations, part vacation home. There is no clear occupancy typology of camp anymore.
Project Name -GATOR House
Studio Name -emerymcclure architecture
Project size– 1660 ft2
Project Budget – USD 221,000,00
Completion date– 2018
Building Level – 1
Location– Ventress, Louisiana, United States
Photography– James Osborne IV
Historically Louisiana Camps followed the forms of hybrid traditional typologies: shotguns, creole cottages, and dogtrots. All of these historical and regional types privilege the “other” public spaces; porches, patios, decks. The GATOR House absorbs spatial and organizational lessons from these traditional typologies while allowing the form and siting to arise from its extreme environmental conditions. It is a result of the social-cultural occupancy while celebrating the need to co-exist with the prevailing hot and excessively humid climate. Passive strategies are required; durability and water resistance are critical.
GATOR House lies adjacent to a ‘false river’, an oxbow lake left behind when the Mississippi river would jump and travel across the delta forming Southern Louisiana. The lake is currently infrastucturally controlled, and therefore its water level is predictable even as it fluctuates seasonally. First, and foremost, GATOR house is raised 4 feet to 8 feet above the 500-year flood stage. This mitigates the chances of the camp flooding. It is also constructed with low-maintenance materials that resist rot, insects, and water constructed of a tough exterior hide of corrugated and v-crimp metal, concrete block, composite decking, and interior finishes of quarry tile, recycled vinyl, and reclaimed cypress. These materials not only withstand the humid climate of Southern Louisiana but they also permit the owners to spray off their camp with a hose when they open up the camp for the season. Additionally, nine metal roll-up doors protect the camp while owners are away and in the event of extreme weather.
The GATOR House’s relationship with the existing climate is more than just the selected materials. It is spatial and social with all public activities happening exteriorly within and on the porches, exterior decks, and patios. The primary social spaces are the dogtrot porch, the side gallery porch, and the screened back porch. The lower-level waterfront porch, angled to capture prevailing breezes, functions as a dining area and the upper-level porch acts as the home’s living room. These spaces extend out into the site with stadium seating, the cooking patio, and the occupiable entry stair. These porches, patios, and decks make-up the majority of the square footage, ring the southern and western facades, and surround the minimal interior, air-conditioned spaces (bedrooms, bathrooms, and appliances). Industrial-grade fans with flexible controls keep both screened porches cool and comfortable and drive the insects away. Using natural ventilation, fans, and deep shade, heat, humidity, and insects are mitigated to establish human comfort in an infamously uncomfortable environment.
Adjacent to the waterfront porch are stadium seats and stairs that wrap around a 100-year-old cypress tree. Occupying the intermediary space between “the outside screened porch” and “the outside” on the waterfront, they provide spaces for gathering, cleaning fish, mammals, and waterfowl, barbecuing, watching the children swim or just to enjoy the view, the place, the climate. Hidden behind the stadium seats lies the outdoor shower for rinsing off after a day on the water or in the woods. These spaces expand the occupiable footprint of the GATOR House even more into its environs. The GATOR house encourages interaction with its site’s natural and cultural environments. It celebrates the complex interaction of the built, natural, and cultural systems of Southern Louisiana.
The only spaces that are truly “inside” are the three bedrooms, the main bath, and the indoor kitchen. Using natural ventilation, fans, and deep shade, heat, humidity, and insects are mitigated to establish human comfort in an infamously uncomfortable environment.
In order to achieve the identity, both technical and phenomenal, of the GATOR House, we attempted to hybridize design strategies. This hybridizations attempts a sustainable habitation both culturally and ecologically. It attempts to create a habitation that refuses the either/or design strategy (tradition vs. modern, cultural vs. physical, natural vs. manmade). The both/and approach results in the GATOR house.