The Off-Grid Cabin

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Although the cabin was “off-grid” and lacking many modern-day conveniences, its interior design created a sense of warmth and comfort, creating for me an odd contradiction: the juxtapositioning of a primitive setting with a sophisticated design.

Off-grid suggests disconnection from externally provided services, such as electricity, water, telephone, etc. and to many this infers going completely without. But if positioned as “stand-alone”, meaning that such services are self-provided, a different scenario can be envisioned. For example, as a child, our summers were often spent in off-grid / self-contained cabins. Using propane for the appliances, gas for lighting, a gas-operated pump to fill a water tower, etc. all the essentials of light, heat, refrigeration, and running water for washing and toilets, were provided.

This cabin, however, left us in a more primitive state. Water needed to be brought in, there was one sink plumbed with a drain, but neither faucets nor plumbing for toilets, lighting was by kerosene, the fridge was an ice cooler. I did have a solar panel to charge our phones, a gas generator to charge my camera batteries, bicycle, and laptop, a wood-burning stove for heat and there was a propane stovetop to cook with.

One might argue that we were not completely off the grid as we bought food in a grocery store, there was a road enabling vehicle access, and periodically a cell signal got through and delivered a text message. As well, services were available externally including at the Provincial park, where we could have a shower, wash our clothes and charge batteries. The Twillingate Library had internet access, as did a local pub.

So why go through all this? To elevate as many contrasts from daily life as possible, through both physical to emotional challenges. One purpose of a residency is to break away from routine; to position oneself outside daily norms into a space where new or different experiences might stimulate new or different thoughts, impressions and interpretations. Going off-grid created a disconnection that went further than one created by a simple change in space to develop a deeper experiential and emotional break.

By way of a parallel, an anthropologist might go in situ to experience a different culture to see the nuances and to develop a deeper understanding and in doing so carry the learning experience from an intellectual approach to a more physical one and through this bump into the unexpected. My expectation was that these unexpected things would highlight the contrasts with my regular routine.

Living Room facing out onto Roger’s Cove.
Doors into bedrooms, off the Living Room.
Cast iron wood-burning stove in Living Room.
Door to toilet.
West-facing window in Living Room. While I photographed, my wife continued practicing her Chinese Calligraphy.

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