Monday, July 30, 2012

Methow Valley, Part Un: Rolling Huts

Last weekend we hit the road.  On our trip through the Methow Valley we stopped at took a look around at the Rolling Huts,, something I've wanted to do since I read about them in Dwell Magazine a few years back.  Now you need to be a good reader and go visit the site, and at least let the slideshow on their home page reel past........OK, done?

I was really interested in seeing how the years had treated their design concept.  Yes, I know how to party while on vacation. 

In the article I read, the original plan was to tow them around in the surrounding fields.  A client could request a certain view (and there are astounding views) or even daylight exposures, and they'd trundle the entire structure about to accommodate the request.

The Rolling Huts no longer roll, unfortunately.  Each one sits on an enclosed gravel pad, wired into service.  

Here's what I think happened: 

1. A Rolling Hut as massively overbuilt  (immense steel i-beams, gargantuan metal chassis and wheels) as these are probably became a Tilting Hut or even a Sinking Hut right around snowmelt.  Not to mention what their sheer passage must have done to the fields over time...'level' probably got pretty scarce.

2. The experience they were selling at the outset was 'aesthetic-spartan-rustic'. The design is gorgeously aesthetic. Wood heat is rustic.  But living without electric light and a place to plug into the 'Net is just too damn spartan for people who can afford to spend 135.00 a night on lodging.

I asked to take a look inside one of the vacant Huts and fell in LOVE.  These are beautiful objects both outside and in.  I have nothing but compliments for the layout, the style, the efficiency, the way natural light is  handled, everything.  Being inside feels good.  I could stay here happily and never feel awkward, isolated or cramped; no small feat given the square footage and the fact that there's a wood stove in the place.

Only problem for me: you have to go outside and use a tank toilet. 

Why they didn't build a door that communicated directly from the living space I do not know. As designed, you have to go completely outside and then enter a very chilly little separate chamber near the steps which contains a porta-potty.  Which smells exactly like a porta-potty.

This is where ideals and reality collide for me.  I'd GLADLY exchange the electricity for a propane incinerating toilet .  As for the 'go outside' aspect, I'm sure that anyone staying there with small children would appreciate not having to haul them out into the snow in the middle of the night one after the other to use the thing. It was a weird decision, but I wonder, given the 'turn three corners' layout of the toilet area, if the original idea might have been to leave it doorless so you could feel all 'al fresco' and peek out at the view.  It'd work...just not in an area that experiences blizzards.  Putting a door on the area was probably a last-minute thing.

I would have used more durable materials for the interior, given that these are rental units. They used plywood for the walls and built-ins, and cork composite for the floors.  There's a lot written on the 'room rules' card about being careful and not letting wet equipment, sharp equipment or dogs ruin things, but I have to admit that so far their guests have been pretty respectful. The places are holding up just fine.  Use has only burnished things a bit, to very attractive effect I have to say. Another point Rolling Huts!

I also noticed that the clerestory glass had cracked up in the corner where the woodstove stack passes through the roof. Woulda put an s-bend in the pipe to move it a little further out from that corner, but that's the kind of thing you note in retrospect. It doesn't leak.

Rolling Huts would work PERFECTLY in an area like the Southwest. I mean PERFECTLY. You'd only have to change out the existing glass for heat blocking glass (, and add some solar panels to the roof. They'd be neat little self-contained eco wagons.  'Burners would flock to them like lemmings to a tall cliff.

A private owner could take out the the bathroom door and open the area back up to the breeze;  even do away with the tank entirely; just leave it at a seat over a hole and let the chips fall where they may, which would make the coyotes happy. Not particularly welcoming if visitors happened to arrive while you were inside, though. But rustic as all git-out.