“Black Shed” project receives National Design-Build Award

Black Shed is a design-build project, which was completed for White Spring Ranch Museum/Archive Library in Genesee, ID in spring 2017 by architecture students and faculty members. The challenge of the project was to design and build a storage space for their historical artifacts.

The project recently received National Design-Build Award from ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture). The original site was developed by a homestead family in the late 19th century. In addition to their farmhouse built in 1885, the site hosts an 1876 log cabin, 1884 curio cabin, and 1889 barn. These historical self-built buildings are the products of families, friends, and communities, and exhibit the history of their lifestyles and culture.

Due to budgetary constraints, the project needed to be self-built. We modified the site, constructed the foundation and the building, and charred the wood. To move the project forward, significant efforts were made for fundraising and requesting material donations.


The 12’x18’ shed was built on a gentle slope where a cellar used to stand. Bringing natural light into the shed was one of the crucial elements of the project as there is no utility access to the shed. Instead of installing a picture window, abstracted light was invited into the space by making small holes on the exterior charred wood rainscreen walls. Different sizes of holes were tested for their spatial effects in a model and full scale mock-ups.

Testing revealed that smaller holes would create more evenly distributed ambient light in the interior space. More than 80,000 5mm holes were milled in the exterior walls. When the exterior light comes into the space through the holes, the exterior environment around the shed is reflected through the light.


For example, during the winter, when there are no leaves on the trees next to the shed, white light from outside fills the interior space. In late spring, the light on the east and west sides where there are trees enters as green light through the young leaves. Ambient light in the shed reflects the outside environment through the color of light.

In responding to the site conditions, the approach to the shed was carefully considered. A 7’x18’-6” deck was built in front of the shed to access the front door. The deck, which faces an open area surrounded by the existing buildings, also provides opportunities to be used as a stage for community events.

Black Shed brought not only a rich experience of design and construction to the students and the community, but also the pure joy of designing and making architecture together with limited resources as people in this rural area did in the past.

team photo

Matthew Staley
Jared Milne
Drew Jepsen
Richard Carlos
Marianeth Becerril
Vlanka Catalan
Jason Johnson
Chris Opdyke
Ian Chi Chau
Zhe Song
Yang Chen

Taiji Miyasaka
Max Kirk
David Drake
Paul Hirzel