A diminutive 196 square feet in plan, this simple pavilion makes a big statement about the power of architecture to enhance an already special environment. The 5 acres of tree-dotted fields it shares with a recent Craftsman-style house also encompass a small, picturesque pond. The owners always loved that spot. But without a shelter in which to linger, says architect Robert Gurney, “there was no reason to go down there.” With little more than a pickup-load of materials (plus a pile of rocks for the chimney), Gurney supplied that and more. His pavilion seems to float above the landscape, its light steel frame contrasting with a massive stone chimney that suggests the remnant of a long-lost building. A steep hip roof gives the tiny building a significant presence in the landscape. Details, which include flush ipe decking and an exposed fir-and-mahogany roof structure, reflect a stringent simplicity of design and precise execution.

The net effect, which combines openness and a sheltering sense of enclosure, can be grasped at a glance, and our judges were just as quickly captivated. “The sweetest little piece of architecture. It's perfect,” remarked one. “It's proportioned beautifully,” noted another. And, perhaps the highest praise of all: “I wish I had done that.”

Entrant/Architect: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect, Alexandria, Va.
Builder: SugarOak, Herndon, Va.
Living space: 196 square feet
Site: 5 acres
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Anice Hoachlander

Resources: Fireplace: Rumford; Lighting fixtures: Louis Poulsen and Stonco.