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UL Lafayette students' ‘House of Cards’ earns top award

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Posted at 11:03 AM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 12:03:12-05

LAFAYETTE, La. — Architecture students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have designed and structured a concrete artist's retreat, which has attracted the attention of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Concrete Institute.

According to UL Lafayette, the one-room 'House of Cards' is both a work of art and a retreat for artists located at Honey Locust, a 30-acre plot of land situated in Arnaudville. Inspired by houses of playing cards, the structure’s 10-inch-thick insulated concrete walls are positioned to give the appearance of being propped against each other.

The 'House of Cards,' completed in May 2022, stands in a tree-lined pasture backed by Bayou Bourbeaux near a small pond. The structure is part of a larger effort by the nonprofit Honey Locust to build a cluster of retreats on the site.

During ACI Louisiana’s recent Excellence in Concrete Awards, the 225-square-foot 'House of Cards' earned the top award for best overall concrete structure. The event in New Orleans also awarded the structure for excellence.

An article about the “House of Cards” in the American Concrete Institute's March issue of its “Concrete International” magazine will also be published.

A total of 29 undergraduate and graduate students contributed to the build, officials say. Architecture Professor Geoff Gjertson, who directs the University's Building Institute in the School of Architecture and Design, coordinated the 'House of Cards' project. Gjertson said the structure was “built to share.”

“This retreat will be for artists, scholars and creative visionaries to soak up the natural setting and gain inspiration from the unique ecology and culture of the area,” he said.

Gjertson expects artists to begin visiting the artist’s retreat during the fall semester, and soon be able to apply for weekend or overnight stays.

A cozy and visually appealing blend of form and function can be expected when inside the building. Salvaged barn and fence wood sheath its walls. Clerestories (large windows that top the interior walls) flood the space with natural light, spilling onto the polished concrete floors and butcher block countertops made of reclaimed pine.

The 'House of Cards' homes a desk and workspace, bed, dresser, table and chairs. Among other features are a sink that funnels water from a well, a composting toilet and an outdoor shower. A blend of traditional and sustainable power sources heat and cool the building, including electricity and natural ventilation through strategically placed windows.

For more information about the “House of Cards” artist’s retreat, contact Gjertson at or (337) 278-2722.