The transcendent detail in the Girl Scouts’ Camp Lakota

Providing rustic comfort with a light touch

By Ashley Stoner and Nathan Mattson, a Project Architect in our Los Angeles studio

Each year, Perkins&Will studios across the globe compete to identify and celebrate the best in technical design. The Transcendent Detail Competition challenges project teams firmwide to put forth their most technically compelling built work to be judged on four criteria: creativity, elegance, technical difficulty, and adherence to design intent. The 2021 champion, the Camp Lakota sleeping cabin, achieved excellence in all four criteria. Through iterative system evaluations, a sophisticated approach to rustic design, and an appreciation of the site’s natural beauty, the Camp Lakota team produced an elegant, efficient, and cost-effective solution.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) identified Camp Lakota, located in the mountains just north of Los Angeles, as the premier year-round camp to serve its 44,000 members. The GSGLA engaged our firm to reimagine the camp and transform it into a place that attracts and inspires Girl Scout campers of all ages—and comforts their parents as their children head off on their first sleep-away adventure.

The project consists of six village clusters and a central dining hall serving all campers. Each village cluster contains a restroom/shower building and either tent camping or six newly built cabins. The team’s challenge included designing to a tight budget, addressing wildfire risk, respecting the natural environment, and enriching the girls’ camp experience. Ultimately, creating “rustic comfort” by doing more with less and using a “light touch” became the mantra guiding the team in making design decisions. The winning transcendent detail was the sleeping cabin design.

The Approach

Each cabin is an enclosed A-frame shelter sized to sleep eight campers. Highly efficient structurally insulated panels (SIPs) were a natural solution, combining superior insulation with a simple form. Initially conceived as flat-pack assemblies akin to IKEA furniture (only with all the parts included), the panelized system could be easily trucked to the remote site and assembled with minimal excess waste and on-site labor. The structural panels themselves provide the cabins’ interior finish, further minimizing cost and waste.

To encourage an integrated team, GSGLA engaged the contractor, Illig Construction, during the construction documents phase. Together, this larger team scrutinized each cabin component—walls, floor, foundation, and overhang—to find the most economical, supplier-friendly combination of systems and materials. Ultimately, eight combinations of systems were compared and priced to determine the most effective way to build the cabins.

The team used highly efficient structurally insulated panels that also provided the cabins' interior finish

The Solution

The form, material, and construction of the sleeping cabins proved to be a tightly fine-tuned, all-around innovative design solution that met the design challenges. The final design is a structure of structural insulated panel (SIP) walls resting on a mass plywood panel (MPP) floor, floating above the ground on four small concrete footings. This immensely reduced the concrete and contributed to both operational and embodied carbon reduction in the project, as well as allowed a light touch on this precious land.

Construction of Camp Lakota was completed in August of 2020. Due to Covid restrictions, the official grand opening of the camp was delayed until April of 2022.