A Kitchen Nestled Among Boulders

Architect Will Winkelman designed an outdoor pizza oven meant to melt into the natural surroundings

A wild cliff that appears to be made of massive floating boulders carpeted in ferns and moss is the setting for a camp that feels a century old. The design goal was to build a fireplace that would also enable cooking over wood. It needed to have an organic feeling, to look as though it was just a nook among the boulders, maybe found by a settler long ago. The ideal location would be near the camp, to organically define an outdoor gathering space for family and friends. The perfect spot was adjacent to a monstrous boulder that reveals itself as a rising tear in the earth, 40 feet long and rising 5 to 6 feet high, naturally defining the space.

“Inspiration for how to organize a new composition of boulders to create the fireplace nook came from a visit to Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park, where one can walk through a massive rift between two opposing tectonic plates. Borrowing from that geologic feature, an opposing ‘lifting of earth’ was created opposite the existing, massive lifted boulder, creating a gap or rift between.

“We have a no-cut ethic in our process of selecting and fitting the boulders. A clay model was made to visualize how to compose the elements. The result is organically organized stones that offer seating and cooking moments. Board-formed (refractory) concrete is used where needed to create a functional fireplace floor, post, and throat, up to its black steel pipe flue with a steel plate cap. It is capped with a single 14-foot-long found slab to be used as a bridging element, borrowing the ‘floating’ boulder feeling of the cliffside.

“The fireplace has a Grillworks wood-fired grill inserted inside for cooking and is cranked up for fires. Black steel valences and pulling the board-formed concrete forward help to dial back the wood grill’s reality of stainless-steel components. Tools for fire and cooking are crafted and hung in a fitted and intuitive way. Mesh screens for sparks tuck away.

“This project is a highly collaborative adventure with blurred lines of attribution. The team included builder Nate Holyoke, mason Mike Harkins, landscape architect Todd Richardson, and metals magician Tim Greene. Each of them was essential to this creation, which is intended to visually recede softly into nature.”

—Will Winkelman, principal and founder of Winkelman Architecture

Next month we will be showing the finished project!

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