• The HOUSEofCARDS is an educational design/build project in Arnaudville, Louisiana. The project was conceived as a folly on a rural piece of land and serves as an artist’s retreat for a non-profit community organization. The concept is that of a 16’x16’ self-sufficient Thoreau’s Cabin on a Cajun Walden Pond. Concrete was chosen as the primary material for its longevity and durability. In this way and at this small scale, concrete is a sustainable material because it will not require maintenance and will last indefinitely. Twenty-nine UL third year and graduate architecture students designed and built the HOUSEofCARDS over two semesters. The concrete was mixed in small batches on the site and poured in 12” lifts. The 10” thick walls are insulated in the middle with 2” of polyisocyanurate foam insulation providing a vapor barrier and thermal break. The walls were dyed the color of earth to blend into the site and contextually-textured with the salvaged board formwork from a dismantled barn on site. The walls lean at 8 degrees against each other on the corners like a house of cards achieving forced perspectives and scale shifts. Paradoxically, even though the structure is heavy and monolithic, the extensive windows and clerestories imbue the space with lightness as if it had been built with giant’s hands from a deck of cards. The polished concrete floors and salvaged pine butcher block countertops and desk provide a relaxing space for artists and scholars to produce their work. The building has water from a well, electricity from a planned solar array, a mini-split heat-pump, and a compost toilet providing self-sufficiency. In addition to hands-on experience in material properties and processes, the students gained expertise in client and consultant relations, subcontractor coordination, budgeting, and scheduling. Within this small rural outpost, solitude and community unite.

Images and Plans


Technical Description

10" thick cast-in-place concrete walls with integral 2" polyisocyanurate insulation and surface applied waterproofing. Light gauge steel framed roof.



University of Louisiana at Louisiana Building Institute


Hayden Reilly

Academic Level(s)
juniors and graduate students
Academic Facts

Site / Structure Dimension
80000 €
Project Context
Project Type
Construction Methods/Techniques