LightHotel Moving Up North to New Off-Grid Getaway

Alchemy Architects’ innovative LightHotel, the one-room mobile hotel that’s been moving around the Twin Cities offering visitors a singular art/architecture experience, has been sold. Tom Puzak, an entrepreneur, former attorney, and mountain bike enthusiast, purchased the LightHotel. He intends to make the structure off-grid and part of a new “Getaway Circle” he’s creating in the Cuyuna Lakes area—which happens to have a ton of world-class mountain biking trails.

Renderings of Puzak’s proposed buildings.

Puzak will continue to use the LightHotel as an ambassador for sustainable building practice and design (see its AirBnB listing for details). He intends to position it on top of a 50-foot-tall hill in the woods. Geoffrey Warner and the Alchemy team created LightHotel from a reused and repurposed shipping container. The structure has a light footprint and fits within Puzak’s vision for a mountain biker respite near the manmade lakes around Cuyuna that were formed during the iron-mining days.

Puzak says he’s broken ground on two additional cabins he’s building for his new development. “The road and driveway are in, and I have a 290-foot well drilled so far,” he says. “This fall yet, I hope to get a septic system and a solar-panel array built. Then things will slow down over the winter until we pour concrete for cabin foundations next year.”

Puzak adds that he’s undertaking his Getaway in Cuyuna, with LightHotel at its center, for two reasons. “One is the revitalization of the dead mining communities through recreation,” he explains. “The glacial-moraine terrain up there, as well as the deep clear lakes that were formerly mining pits, are wonderful areas in which to be outside. I want to build an inspiring place for people in the Twin Cities to get outside and appreciate this area and the hard-working people who live there.”

“And two,” he adds: “I want to move architecture and residential building forward. Most structures today are built with outdated techniques that are not just inefficient, but ugly and boring. The stuff being built out there, generally, is no good. We (largely Japan, Germany, and other areas with progressive investment in building design) know how to build more efficiently, and more beautifully as well. My goal is to build structures that inspire people to think about what is possible for them, what else is out there. The LightHotel’s philosophy of big design and small space resonates with me because I believe that it’s about quality, not quantity.”

Since its opening reception at MIA in May 2016, the LightHotel has been celebrating eco-tourism and the “luxury of less” around the Twin Cities. Places where the LightHotel has appeared include the Northern Spark Festival, Eaux Claires Music + Art Festival, the MN State Fair’s EcoExperience, AIA-MN, the Como Park Pavilion, 3M’s Innovation Fair, and the St. Anthony Park and Towerside Innovation District’s community gardens. Most recently, the LightHotel served as a ranger station at Coldwater Spring National Park in Minneapolis.

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