“I see it in back yards, in a 40-acre pasture, on top of a building in Manhattan, on a barge. It’s not just for mountain or lakefront properties. It could be anyplace,” said Broadhurst, an architect in Rockville.
For the next two years, it is under the shelter of a towering silver maple on the grounds of the Mansion at Strathmore, the historic house and visual arts center off Rockville Pike in North Bethesda.
Set against the backdrop of the adjoining Music Center at Strathmore, the prototype Crib will function as a working artist’s studio. Largely prefabricated, it took two full weeks to assemble and opened to the public on Wednesday.
Beyond its high design and evident craftsmanship, the Crib is part of an alluring universe of small, secondary buildings — planners call them accessory structures — that can range from simple yoga spaces to home offices to weekend abodes. Their ambitions and costs vary widely, but they all offer a singular appeal to harried parents, working stiffs and latent poets alike — as a place of retreat.
The Crib has a floor area of 250 square feet, but decks front and rear raise that to 370 square feet. Its scale was driven by what Broadhurst felt would feel comfortable for four people to gather in two separate seating areas and to have a meal together, and by the need for prefabricated sections to fit on a truck. He likens the Crib to a nautical environment where spatial efficiency is the key: A cabinet unfolds to reveal an office space, for example, and a ship’s ladder takes the occupants to a queen-size bed in the loft. The interior is 131
2 feet wide at the floor, but because of the canted walls, 16 feet at the eave. It’s sort of like being in a zoot suit.
“It struck us as being very sculptural,” said Monica Jeffries Hazangeles, president of Strathmore. “It’s an interesting exploration of architectural art.”
The frame is of galvanized steel beams and the distinctive roof formed from structural insulated panels clad in galvanized steel. The walls consist of translucent polycarbonate panels in an enveloping basket of heat-treated poplar. At night, the structure glows from within.
The Crib’s limited effect on the environment was a major design consideration — most steel today is recycled, the treated poplar resembles teak but is a fast-growing timber and the floor is of tiles from recycled tires. No surfaces are painted or stained, and the building is designed to close securely — to be bear-proof, among other things — and be left unoccupied for long periods.