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Design New England

Studio North: A Socratic exercise in building and design

Studio North 11 - Chicken Chapel, landscape.jpg
Studio North’s first project was a chicken coop, a gracious pavilion that houses a flock of Rhode Island Reds, It is made with translucent panels in a wood frame finished with a stylish waddle of birch branches harvested in the surrounding woods. (Photos/Moskow Linn Architects)

“An architectural education is best experienced through engagement in all aspects of the building process,” says architect Keith Moskow. Based on that premise, he and Robert Linn, his partner at Moskow Linn Architects in Boston, launched Studio North, which brings something of a Socratic approach to learning the fundamentals of architecture, design, construction, and teamwork.

Limited to 10 students, the six-day workshop is a fully immersive design experience conducted on a 117-acre farm in rural Vermont. Construction experience is not a prerequisite. Indeed, the fact so many architecture students never get to wield a hammer is exactly the point. “Most of them never get to build what they design,” says Moskow, a situation that to him seems oxymoronic at best.

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Linn and Moskow also believe that no matter what a structure’s purpose, it can — and should — be beautiful. The first project Studio North students completed in 2011 was a chicken coop, an exquisitely simple building that found itself in the pages of Design New England.

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The moveable pigpen has an aerodynamic appeal.

The practical also drove the design for the moveable pigpen, the next Studio North project, produced in 2012. Simple, sturdy, yet majestic with its winged roof, it makes one think that perhaps pigs can fly.

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A temple for one or a stage for many, the Birch Pavilion taps the spiritual aura of its peaceful surroundings.

Last summer, the third class at Studio North took a different direction and built the Birch Pavilion, a temple in the woods that serves no other purpose than to offer a place for contemplation. For a hard-working Yankee farm family, this might seem a frivolous endeavor, but for the students of Studio North, it brought the questions of form and function into hands-on relief. Here, after the chickens are fed, the eggs gathered, the hogs rounded up and settled down, there is a place for the human spirit to ponder what has been and explore what is next.

Information and applications, due June 1, for Studio North’s 2014 session lead by architects Keith Moskow FAIA and Robert Linn AIA, July 14-19, are available at moskowlinn.com.

Great design is always at your fingertips! Read Design New England's May/June 2014 issue online!