In 2015 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched NY Parks 2020, a multi-year, $900 million initiative dedicated to the update and repair of park facilities throughout the state. Of the commitment, $9 million went to the addition of 10 public-use cabins in Long Island’s Wildwood State Park and 15 cabins at nearby Heckscher State Park, two coastal recreation areas roughly two hours drive from NYC.
New York State Parks commissioned the prolific NYC-based studio WXY Architecture + Urban Design for the design of the extensive project. Tasked with drawing new visitors to the parks through affordable vacation rentals, as well as providing a future model for state park cabin design, the studio focused on creating prototypes that blend in with existing facilities throughout state parks, while giving them a contemporary upgrade.
Many of the existing, aging rental cabins and park facilities throughout the state are built in a style known as “parkitecture,” a movement popularized throughout the country in the early 1900s. Inspired by nature-centric designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, the style favors the use of natural materials and emphasizes aesthetic harmony with the environment.
WXY too found inspiration in parkitecture for their NY State Park designs, opting to avoid the style's characteristic low ceilings, dark interiors, and small windows and instead embrace large apertures and spacious interiors full of natural light. The design update brings in many features now commonplace in contemporary cabin design.
In Wildwood State Park, two types of new cabins have been built-a 670 sq ft one-bedroom and 784 sq ft two-bedroom. The designs focus both on accommodating the public (who will rent the cabins) and park rangers, who are often responsible for building and then maintaining them. As such, the cabins are durable, accessible, and uncomplicated.
On the interior, pitched roofs create intentional interior dynamics, like double-height ceilings in living areas, and master-bedrooms at the lowest roofline for quiet, cozy nooks. Large windows combat the smaller openings of old and encourage cross breezes. The cabins have no AC so natural ventilation and overhead fans cool the interior. In the winter, radiant floor heating and insulation keep things warm.
Each cabin is equipped with a kitchenette, living space, and restroom, with limited furniture and ornamentation to make maintenance easy. In adhering to the principles of parkitecture, interiors are finished with natural ash-plank flooring, pine wall boards, and birch plywood ceilings. Outside, unfinished cedar shingles blend the structures into their native habitat.
Blending contemporary design with the classic cabin aesthetic of parkitecture, WXY created an accessible framework in which to update statewide park infrastructure, much of which is in need of a little TLC. As actual campsite rentals, and prototypes for future state cabins, WXY's cabins will hopefully serve park-goers for years to come. It seems the studio is even working on another set as we speak. And now people like you and me can go rent a badass cabin in the middle of a state park for the weekend. It’s a win for the state and the people.