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  5. Ahti Westphal
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  7. Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal

  • 01:00 - 8 December, 2011
Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal
Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal +25

  • Architects

  • Location

    Grindstone Island, Rainy Lake, Minnesota, United States
  • Architect

    Ahti Westphal
  • Contractor

    Burkham Built LLC
  • Steel Fabrication

    Rudy Imhoff
  • Client

  • Suppliers

    Albany International, Paper Machine Clothing and Engineered Fabrics
  • Area

    240.0 ft2
  • Project Year


From the architect. The Island

The “Blue Cube” is located on Grindstone Island, one of many islands which dot the watery landscape of Rainy Lake in Northern Minnesota. The particular peninsula of the island that the building was imagined for is geologically composed of some of the oldest granite basement rock in the world averaging between one and three billion years old. With the US Canadian border immediately to the North and Voyageurs National Park immediately to the East of the buildings site, the area is a rare and special place for both locals and visitors alike who use the grand northern boreal forest for fishing, nature study, and forays into the wild.


In the 18th and 19th Centuries Rainy Lake was home to the Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans and the waters were plied by French Canadian Voyageurs traveling what was then known as the Laurentian Route which follows the Laurentian Divide where all waters north of the divide flow North into Hudson Bay. At the turn of the 19th century industry developed in the area in the form of paper manufacturing supported by logging for pulp acquisition which are still the two primary economic drivers for the area today. European immigrants moved to the area for work bringing skilled craftsmanship and knowledge of massive timber construction. In 1975 Voyageurs National Park was established to protect 114,000 acres bringing more attention to the areas natural beauty and cultural history.


In the early 1980’s the designer’s father, the sculptor Rolf Westphal began utilizing paper machine clothing as an element in large scale public indoor and outdoor installations in Scandinavia and the United states. Around the same time he began using the material as an integral element in a summer home he designed and constructed. The material was subsequently chosen for the Blue Cube because of its proven durability and UV resistance and for its unique and beautiful interaction with light.


The building was conceived of to be versatile in its function, culturally rooted in the areas history, and sensitive to the landscape. Comprised of two elements separated by a wooden bridge, each element offers different atmospheres for sleeping, eating, and reflection in addition to providing storage for seasonal visits to the island. The southern element is constructed from steel from the Minnesota iron range and blue paper machine clothing comprised of machine woven strands of Kynar 412. This is the first time the paper machine clothing has been used in an architectural capacity. It is predicted that the material will become more prevalent in the design of more high tech buildings and high-rise façade assemblies in the future. The woven Kynar thermoplastic which is 100% recyclable elegantly registers, spreads, morays, and splits daylight and artificial light in a multitude of ways through-out the passage of the days and seasons. In the summer months the screened in space protects dwellers from mosquitos and heavy wind. The blue cubes comparatively heavy counterpart to the north is built using massive timber construction methods from solid northern white cedar. The wooden cube offers shelter from storms and insulates against arctic wind traveling down from Hudson’s Bay in the winter and fall months.

Text provided by Ahti Westphal

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal" 08 Dec 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


industria natural · December 11, 2011

blue cube | ahti westphal

Kristi Sprague · December 10, 2011

Being from this area of the world, I find the simplicity spot on here. It is preferable to me over lakeside mansions and groomed lawns.

College of Design · December 10, 2011

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal (@UofMDesign student) over at @ArchDaily - - #UMN #architecture

Yusuke Kashiwagi · December 10, 2011

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal

Mike - Chicago · December 09, 2011

Well... I thought what a disaster to ruin the view from within and ruin the landscape for everyone as they pass by in their canoes looking for natural beauty. I then read the description about the designer's father's sculptural work with this product and it made some sense.

Adascalitei Daniel · December 09, 2011

It`s not a cube...all right?

Randy · December 09, 2011 07:06 PM

It is blue, though.

Noel · December 09, 2011

represent - T

Doug Wittnebel · December 09, 2011

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal

Randy · December 09, 2011

It`, all right.

David Spence · December 09, 2011

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal #architecture

him + her · December 09, 2011

Architecture Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal: Architect: Ahti Westphal Location: Grindstone Island, Rai... #architecture

Jorge Gomez Triana · December 09, 2011

#Arquitectura Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal

@ArchiStream · December 09, 2011

via @archdaily Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal #Architecture

Archibuilt 2010 · December 09, 2011

Archi. Spotlight: Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal: Architect: Ahti Westphal Location: Grindstone Island, Rainy Lake, ...

Archiburner · December 09, 2011

Blue Cube / Ahti Westphal: Architect: Ahti Westphal Location: Grindstone Island, Rainy Lake, Minn... #architecture


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