Judith Mountain Cabin

AIA - Montana -- Merit Design Award Winner





 Slide descriptions

1. View to the west
 2.  South and east elevations
 3.  View down the valley
 4.  North and west elevations
 5.  A winter view
 6.  Interior -- upper level
 7.  Upper level ceiling
 8.  Lower level
 9.  Lower level
10.  View from the east






'It was like being hit by lightning" according to the client. Given 113 acres in Alpine Gulch in the Judith Mountains of central Montana, it was a dream come true for them, after searching for years for acreage like this. The land already had a small log cabin on it. Located at the very bottom of the canyon, in a grove of old firs, it was always dark, cold, andclaustrophobic. The clients desired something else--light, sun and expansiveness. A forest fire that burned across part of the land in 1989 exposed just such an opportunity. Sited about 70 feel above the valley floor, on the edge of a limestone ledge, the site has long views up and down the valley, seemingly hanging in space. But, it also has the intimacy of an aspen grove, and a meadow of wildflowers in the other


directions. The cabin had to do a couple of other things for the clients. It had to relate to their cultural landscape, as well as the physical one. A third generation Montanan, and the son of a forester who graduated from the University of Montana in 1949, he was raised with both the myth and the reality of the great western forests. The fire towers that guarded these lands represented a romantic ideal of life to his family as he grew up. Lookouts were always in the most inaccessible, most spectacular location. They were a place where life and relationships were condensed to their essential elements, where nature overwhelmed and embraced those lives.
The cabin had to become part of those landscapes. Not just in form and material, but in time, as well. It had to look old from the moment it was finished. It had to look like 1939, like the CCC had built it. A lot of recycled material was used to accomplish this. Corrugated metal roofing from a barn being demolished down the road. Beams, flooring and decking were recycled from an 80-year-old trestle, recently dismantled. The stone came from the site, and rock flooring was quarried in Idaho. In contrast to the exterior, the interiors are archaic, but light, and anything but rustic. The ground level provides cooking, washing and storage, with sleeping for two. The upper level provides the connection to the views, with windows in every direction, and a six-foot square skylight at the peak of the roof to insure even more light to the space. On the second level, there is also sleeping for two, and storage between the floor beams and in the furniture.
The cabin is powered by two fifty-watt photovoltaic panels that provide twelve volt direct current power to outlets, lights, and the well pump. That power lets the client have a stereo, a TV/VCR, running water in the sink, and water to fill a wood-fired hot tub. A composting toilet, visible in the tenth photo, provides sanitation.
The cabin has proven itself to the family and friends of the client in the year since its completion. It's become an icon in the canyon, and a gathering place, rapidly filling with memories.

click here for the sketches.


Jeff Shelden, AIA
Lewistown, Montana
Prairie Wind Architecture, Project Listing, E-mail