Yankee architectural economy

"Consumable Sugarhouse,'' in Norwich, Vt. 

“A sap run is the sweet good-bye of winter”

So wrote American naturalist John Burroughs in 1886 about the weeks in March and early April when warm sunny days and still-freezing nights draw the sap through the veins of sugar maples ripe for tapping.

For Keith Moskow FAIA and Robert Linn AIA, both of Moskow Linn Architects, Boston, this year’s sugaring season will also be a sweet reminder of summer, when Studio North, their weeklong intensive-training program for architecture students who want to learn building basics as well as design skills, created a sugarhouse with “consumable” walls. The structure, built with standard framing material, is a pavilion, open on three sides, with a metal shed roof.

It is sited on a gentle wooded slope with a pond view near Norwich, Vt. The maples are uphill, so gravity carries the sap from the trees through tubes to a storage tank at the solid back wall of the 11-by-14-foot house. It takes a lot of wood to fuel the evaporator inside the shed that will boil down the sap, which is 98 percent water, turning it into syrup.

The design solution is to pack the open walls with firewood. In winter, the shed serves as a way station for cross-country skiers. In sugaring season, logs are taken from the top down, and by the end of the sugaring season only the frame and roof remain. Syrup made, wood consumed, the walls of the pavilion open to the forest, and the structure becomes a rustic teahouse ready for a long meditative summer.

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Moskow Linn Architects – Studio North

88 Broad Street

Boston, MA 02110

617 292 2000