Metcalfe Architecture & Design is working with Camp JRF, a Jewish Reconstructionist summer camp in the Poconos, to create an Eco-Village in the forest up a hill from the existing camp, for older adolescent girl and boy campers that reflects the religious sect’s ideals of “community” (Kehillah) and “repairing the world” (Tikkun Olam). Reconstructionism is a progressive approach to Jewish life integrating a deep respect for traditional Judaism with the insights of today.
This new village will be built in part by campers and is a result of workshops with them to determine what they believe to be the most important components for their new campground. The form of the village reflects the need for social spaces to encourage the dialogue required to become responsible people (“community”) and uses sustainable building strategies and materials to foster respect for the earth (“repairing the world”). Camper participation in the construction will teach them about building in a way that touches lightly on the land and will provide them with a sense of ownership of the village.
The village will be composed of yurt cabins – round tent structures originating from nomadic tribes of Central Asia – that are appropriate to this project both because of their round non-hierarchical and socially inclusive shape as well as their reference to the nomadic history of the Jews. The yurts are sheltered by colorful canopies and sit upon platforms, adjacent to a program building for gatherings, bathhouses, and an earthen berm for stargazing.
Construction on the $2.5 million project begins in Summer 2011 at the 120-acre wooded, lakeside camp in South Sterling, PA, that annually welcomes nearly 400 campers ranging in age from eight to 17 from across North America, Israel, and around the world.
The design is focused on creating social spaces for campers and staff to meet and enjoy their lives together at summer camp. The program building and the bathhouses are located around an existing meadow on a wooded hillside. The open-air program building will be dug into a hill backing onto an earthen berm that campers requested for star gazing and will also provide entry to the building’s upper level. The program building will provide spaces for theater and musical performances. The bathhouse serves as a daily bathing spot as well as a place for campers to gather and discuss the events of the day and is comprised of sheltering roofs with deep overhangs and wood screen walls that provide views out and ample air circulation.
The existing meadow provides a natural center to the site and is open to the sky, providing a setting for stargazing and a patch of sunflowers that attracts songbirds and other wildlife. Stone walls running through the woods create a sense of order in the dense woods, working in conjunction with the adjacent meadow and echoing the many stone walls found running through the forests throughout the region.
The yurts will be grouped in threes in the adjacent dense woods on wooden platforms around wide steps that lead to a communal fire pit in the woods. Colorful awnings will span between tents to provide relief from the sun and to unite the round yurt shapes.
The project features many sustainable design components including locally harvested, naturally rot-resistant Black Locust lumber used throughout in the region’s coal mines; stained glass-like walls of beer bottles recycled from local taverns and embedded in “cob” walls (cob is a natural building technique using clay and straw); solar hot water and photo-voltaic panels, dual flush toilets and waterless urinals; high ash content concrete foundations; stone walls made of stone found on the site; bathhouse walls made of repurposed doors from demolished houses; and concrete sonotube foundations that have minimal impact on the site.
Status: Under Construction
Location: South Sterling, PA, US