This tiny building affords its owner a peaceful, low impact waterfront retreat while also meeting an unusual requirement. Because it’s located in the flowage easement of a hydroelectric dam, explains architect Brandon Pace, “it has to be permeable on three sides. You have to let water flow through the building.” Pace’s solution—unfinished cedar screen walls affixed to a welded steel structural frame—demonstrates how much functional art can be wrought from a stack of 2x4s. “We tried to get what looked like a random pattern from something that’s really carefully controlled,” says Pace of the wall panels, which were shop fabricated and trucked to the site.

Sheltered within are a seating area, a small kitchen, and a bench large enough for a nap. A rooftop photovoltaic panel charges a bank of batteries, housed inside the bench, which powers the lights, refrigerator, and ceiling fans. A 400-gallon cistern stores rainwater harvested from the butterfly roof. Our jury called the project “beautiful” and “concise.” One judge noted, “It’s a folly, but in the richest sense of the word.”

Entrant/Architect: Sanders Pace Architecture, Knoxville, Tenn.; Builder: JTI Construction, Knoxville; Living space: 176 square feet; Site: 0.94 acre; Construction cost: $268 per square foot; Photographer: Jeffrey Jacobs.

Product details

Kitchen fittings: Delta,; Paints/stains/wall finishes: Cabot Stains,, Benjamin Moore,; Solar energy system: BP Solar,