Shelters for Terrain Inquiry

Studios at The Mastheads in the Berkshires | photo: Abigail Doan studio

Visual notes/quotes from my September 20, 2021, day residency in the architectural perch and environs of the Thoreau studio at The Mastheads.

This day was an opportunity to sit with this famous quote by Henry David Thoreau, specifically while occupying one of the shelters created by the project’s architects on the grounds of Herman Melville’s Arrowhead.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

documenting luminosity and terrain at The Mastheads | photo: Abigail Doan studio
interior of the Thoreau studio with luminous and tactile materials | photo: Abigail Doan studio

“ I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life … ”

interior of the Thoreau studio with luminous and tactile materials | photo: Abigail Doan studio

“… to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner … ”

interior of the Thoreau studio with luminous and tactile materials | photo: Abigail Doan studio
interior of the Thoreau studio with luminous materials for ‘record keeping’ | photo: Abigail Doan studio

“ … if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion …”

Simply, simplify … a luminous framework for ‘shelter’ as a simple mirror for examining the terrain surrounds. Shelters should support creative inquiry as well as provide vantage points for vistas far beyond — a contained space or seemingly complex volume pared down for deeper reflection.

On the naming of the Mastheads:

“ Aboard the Pequod, the whaling ship in Moby Dick in which Ishmael sails, crew members take shifts climbing up high into the masthead, looking out for whales. From that new vantage point, they see the world around them from a different perspective, elevated far off the ship’s deck. At the same time, Ishmael describes the masthead — a space large enough for only one person — as an opportunity to look inward, and encounter new aspects of oneself.”

All images: Abigail Doan studio (2021)

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projects and writing exploring the intersections of site-specific, landscape phenomena and art lab/design methodologies.

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Abigail Doan | Studio

Abigail Doan | Studio

projects and writing exploring the intersections of site-specific, landscape phenomena and art lab/design methodologies.

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