Hoisting Cabin Girders

A short video of my father, Alvin Van Hulzen, winching up the whole timber girders that are going to make the raised floor of my future cabin in Klamath County, Oregon.  The beams probably weigh about a ton each, being about 26 feet long and 16 inches in diameter (800cm x 40cm).  Our makeshift crane, which was anchored pretty soundly with guy-wires still can be heard creaking under the compression.  Rather unnerving, to be sure, but it all went well.  Hats off to Dad’s enginering instincts.

Cabin in the Woods, Klamath County, Oregon

It will come as no surprise that the “we” at T. van Hulzen design is often just myself. True, working in symbiosis with Studio Louter in Amsterdam means that with each project there’s a whole team involved doing production, content, multimedia, etc.  But rarely do I get around to doing a project that is just for myself.  That changed this past September and October when I started building my own ‘cabin in the woods’. More specifically, it’s to be a log cabin in Klamath County, Oregon, USA, on the edge of the pine forests surrounding Fourmile Flats, one of the great seasonal moorlands of the Southern Cascades. Fourmile Flats Ranch belongs —not incidentally— to my generous parents. Granting their children land is of course a sinister ploy to spend more time with them. In their defence, it’s a magical land, volcanic and densely forested at 1300 meters above sea level (4300 ft) on the eastern flank of the Cascade Range and bounded on all sides by National Forest and designated wilderness.

There is of course an architectural concept. I couldn’t just let it be a run of the mill log cabin. Call it designer’s pride. The idea is to build a structure on top of a raised platform. This fulfills a number of wishes. One is for it to be a proper wildlife viewing station, another is to have as little impact on the landscape as possible, then there’s the wish to be raised above the elements (flooding in spring and deep snow in winter) and lastly it’s meant to improve the view of iconic Mount McLoughlin in the near distance.  To this end I still have to clear 15 acres of scrub pine forest and harvestable poplars (aspen and cottonwood.)

Phase one is to build the platform.  When I left on November 2, we—my father and I— had achieved the minimum of what I had wanted.  This involved harvesting my own materials, clearing the landscape of scrub and burn piles, quarrying some rock, setting foundations, building piers and hoisting the main girders.  We also made some beginnings on milling our own planks and beams with an Alaska sawmill we had acquired.  This allows one to mill on the spot on uneven terrain.

It is obviously a project in flux.  The end designs have not been determined, and I am leaving it to some degree to the many variables that enter into the equation.  In that sense it’s a very organic process. The joy is in the hard work and the extraction of ones own materials. And let’s not forget the euphoria that comes from camping in the great outdoors for 5 weeks on end, cutting firewood, clearing brush, stoking campfires and cooking rough.