Designers at Play: Four Young LA Architects Build Their Own Camp in the California Desert

Do you choose to spend your vacation days doing something akin to what you get paid for the rest of the year? Architects Tom Gottelier and Bobby Petersen of Petersen & Gottelier do. They take so much pleasure in the creative process and playing with others that they founded Designers on Holiday, a summer camp in Gotland, Sweden, where the young and handy gather to build inventive outdoor living structures.

Tom and Bobby’s firm is based in LA and Oslo, and wanting to apply their camp concept in California, they teamed up with two LA friends, Ben Rowland of Husler & Rose and Andrew Seiger of General Office, to buy 2.6 acres of untouched desert in Joshua Tree.

The international group are all architects specializing in sustainable design—Andrew is the only American; Ben is also a trained builder and furniture maker. They bought their place—which they dubbed The Sandbox—five years ago “just before the prices got silly,” says Tom—and have been using it for their shared version of fun, partners and three young children now included in the mix. Come see what they’ve created.

Photographs courtesy of The Sandbox.

a drone view of the sandbox. from la, during a low traffic time of day, it take 9
Above: A drone view of The Sandbox. From LA, during a low-traffic time of day, it takes approximately two hours to reach the spot where the tarmac ends; it’s another 20 minutes on dirt roads to get to the property. Joshua Tree National Park is visible in the distance.
over the last few years, the friends have built the bare essentials for their c 10
Above: Over the last few years, the friends have built the bare essentials for their camp: a shaded area, a cabin, a composting toilet, and a storage locker. They used leftover building materials and made sure each structure has “as few contact points with the land as possible to disturb as little as possible,” specifies Tom. “We have no fences and leave no waste.”