Deep Space Maine is an off-grid network of live-work micro-cabins that acts as a wilderness research outpost and urban-rural bridge, fostering community and dialogue between world-renowned architects and artists and the creative farmers, artists, and homesteaders of western Maine. A collaboration between Detroit-based architect Aaron Jones, and NYC/Maine-based artists Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint, Deep Space Maine’s translates local construction methods into an experimental, scifi-influenced design that contributes to the field of architecture by developing progressive production methods and furthering critical conversations on buildings, ecology, and sustainability. At full scale, these structures typify the global tiny-building movement with a unique conceptual and formal approach that reframes perceptions of architecture, place, and planet, while building unprecedented community between populations rarely in contact and bringing the conversation to institutions worldwide.
Coupled with building materials generated from the renewable trees on the fifty-acre plot of land (owned by Nadir and Peppermint), this choice of design cultivates an aesthetic that is simultaneously regional and otherworldly, blending the architecture with local ecology and giving the barrel design new context. The cylindrical pods evoke logs that have been hollowed out, as if in an act of basic survival, while simultaneously evoking the form of NASA’s SkyLab observatory and the international space station. Grounded on earth yet suggestive of space-time travel, Deep Space Maine adapts the science fiction trope of “defamiliarizing the familiar” into a research-residency experience. Embedded on the land while immersed in an aura of planetary estrangement, the live-work pods tell a story that residents and local collaborators will be invited to contribute to–a story questioning the shape of sustainability, community, and the future.
Deep Space Maine is a catalytic turning-point for Jones, Nadir, and Peppermint. The project manifests architectural values espoused in Jones’ experimental practice at full or built scale for the first time. Reversing the typical paradigm of translating representation into building, the architecture connects occupants with the earth and with each other to generate evolving representations of experimental communities, research practices, and science fictions. For Peppermint and Nadir, this project expands their practice of building emergent communities and pioneering D.I.Y. infrastructure. Since 2002, they have maintained an off-grid, hand-built wilderness studio on their land in the poorest county of Maine, while exhibiting the bulk of their work in NYC and working at top research universities. This project fulfills their long-held goal of building community between rural and urban America, between renowned thinkers from cities and the D.I.Y. creatives of Maine’s mountains.