Ghost Architectural Laboratory

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Ghost Architectural Laboratory | Notes of Interest

The Ghost Laboratory is sited at the LaHave River estuary on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast, where Samuel de Champlain made his first landfall in the new world in 1604. This landscape was re-cleared from forest by the architect over the past 25 years, revealing its historic ruins and its 400 years of agrarian history.

The Ghost Lab is an architectural education center in the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin or Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio. The permanent structures which now occupy the site among the ruins – tower, studio, cabins, barns and boathouse – are, in part, products of the design/build curriculum itself. They provide accommodation for the program and a venue for community events.

Each component started as a two-week project; from design, to foundation, to framing, to sheathing. The tower, which marks the south corner of the courtyard, and the barn, are sited just outside the fence and are built on wood post foundations. The studio and four cabins inside the fence are heated structures on concrete foundations. Each of the cabins is a prototypical and modest, 700 square foot, two bedroom structure comprised of a ‘servant’ box and a ‘served’ shed, clad in eastern cedar shingles. The 90 foot long, metal clad studio is dominated by a 40 foot worktable and a 72 foot totemic cedar cabinet. The 72 foot Ghost 9 barn contains an equipment shed and free stalls for horses, while creating a second working courtyard. The historic octagonal Troop barn, which has been moved 200 miles and redesigned to fit its new home, contains a community gathering hall on top and sheep stables below.

Additional Credit

Building: Gordon MacLean Builders
Consultant: Benz Architecture and Consulting; Columbia University; Architectural Record; University of
          Minnesota; Wendell Burnette Architects; Juhani Pallasmaa Architects; Marlon Blackwell Architect;
          Washington University in St. Louis; Lake/Flato Architects; Peter Buchanan(author); The Miller Hull
          Partnership; Deborah Berke and Partners Architects; Francis Kéré Architecture; Tom Peters (author);
          Arkitecktur N; Peter Stutchbury Architecture; Ghost students
Engineer: Campbell Comeau Engineering Ltd.

Photo Credit

© Manuel Schnell
© Brian MacKay-Lyons
© James Steeves

Ghost Architectural Laboratory

Jury Comments

This project reveals itself as more than just a grouping of buildings; it is a physical experiment in education as well as an act of will to preserve the serene beauty in the landscape. As a teaching tool the students find themselves immersed in an environment where they are challenged to produce high quality designs they can self construct.

This project is truly more than the sum of its parts; it is a wonderful resolution of materials, details, landscape, and learning.

2012 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury

  • Rod Kruse, FAIA, Chair
  • BNIM Architects
  • Des Moines
  • Barbara White Bryson, FAIA
  • Rice University
  • Houston
  • Annie Chu, AIA
  • Chu & Gooding Architects
  • Los Angeles
  • Dima Daimi, Assoc. AIA
  • Rossetti
  • Farmington Hills, Michigan
  • Harry J. Hunderman, FAIA
  • Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
  • Northbrook, Illinois
  • Scott Lindenau, FAIA
  • Studio B Architects
  • Aspen, Colorado
  • Kirsten R. Murray, AIA
  • Olson Kundig Architects
  • Seattle
  • Thomas M. Phifer, FAIA
  • Thomas Phifer & Partners
  • New York City
  • Seth H. Wentz, AIA
  • LSC Design, Inc.
  • York, Pennsylvania

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