This Cabin Was Built In The Middle Of The Desert. What It's Made From Took Me By Surprise

Out in the middle of the desert in Joshua Tree, California, there's a cabin that's half homesteader project, half art piece. The creation of artist Phillip K. Smith III, Lucid Stead gives the impression of the bones of a cabin suspended in the air. 

Outfitting the cabin with LED lighting, Arduino programming and strips of mirror, the cabin reflects the vista of the desert. This makes the structure look transparent, blending in with its surroundings.

Phillip K. Smith is a multimedia artist best known for his light installations for 2014's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. He'd owned this Joshua Tree cabin and its surrounding 5 acres for nine years and it was during this time that Smith says the idea was just "slowly brewing."

Lucid Steal is powered by a six-panel solar tray which allows the structure to stand unencumbered by visible (or audible) power sources.

Not only that, but the purity and eco-consciousness of the solar energy was an important aspect of the project to Smith. He says, "I didn’t want the hum of a generator to pull you away from the purity of the experience."


The interior of the shack, not open to the public, contains the customized hardware boards.

The boards, using Arduino's open-source programming, determine the color change.

The original shack was built in the 1940s as a homesteader shack, during a time when the U.S. government would give small pieces of land to anyone willing to put down roots in these remote areas.

"The project has really been a collaboration with the 70-year-old structure," Smith says, "The splitting wood, the bent nails, the dimensions of the openings are all untouched."

At night, the colored lights play against the desert sky. 

Because of the programming nature of the cabin and the reflection of Joshua Tree’s surroundings, each photo of Lucid Stead has several variables.


Smith has noted the extensive photography options his work produces.

Smith intends to continue documenting Lucid Stead, renting a property half a mile away for the next year. 

“My intent is to study what I have made. It is my goal to spend time with the project and to document it fully through photography, drawing, writing, and other methods,” Smith says.

Although he's been approached about selling Lucid Stead or putting it on gallery loan, Smith holds fast to the idea that it's a site-specific work and could not be reproduced outside of Joshua Tree.

Smith is looking at locations in Martha's Vineyard for his next light installation project.

Credit: Twisted Sifter

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