“House of Cards” stands strong in American Concrete Institute Competition


An artist’s retreat designed and built by University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture students has caught the eye of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Concrete Institute.

The 225-square-foot “House of Cards” earned the top award for best overall concrete structure during ACI Louisiana’s recent Excellence in Concrete Awards in New Orleans. It also earned an award for excellence.

The awards recognize creativity, innovation and aesthetics in concrete construction projects. The American Concrete Institute will also publish an article about the “House of Cards” in the March issue of its “Concrete International” magazine.

The one-room “House of Cards” is both a work of art and a retreat for artists at Honey Locust, a 30-acre plot of land in Arnaudville, La. The structure’s 10-inch thick insulated concrete walls are positioned to give the appearance of being propped against each other, a look inspired by houses of playing cards.

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

A total of 29 undergraduate and graduate students contributed to the design and build of the “House of Cards.” Architecture professor Geoff Gjertson directs the University’s Building Institute in the School of Architecture and Design. Gjertson, who coordinated the “House of Cards” project, 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 explained.

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

Those who do will find a cozy, visually appealing blend of form and function. Inside, salvaged barn and fence wood sheath its walls. Clerestories – large windows that top the interior walls – flood the space with natural light that spills onto polished concrete floors and butcher block countertops of reclaimed pine.

The “House of Cards” holds a desk and workspace, bed, dresser, table and chairs. A sink that funnels water from a well, a composting toilet and an outdoor shower are among other features.  It is heated and cooled with a blend of traditional and sustainable power sources, including electricity and natural ventilation through strategically placed windows.

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

Photo caption: UL Lafayette students’ “House of Cards” artist’s retreat was recently recognized with two awards during a Louisiana Chapter of the American Concrete Institute awards ceremony in New Orleans. Attending the event were, from left to right, students Hunter Darby, Samuel Pierce, David Nelson, Lexi Palumbo, Lindsey Authement, Matthew Dufrene, Christian Willis, Jason Funderburgh, and architecture professor Geoff Gjertson. Submitted photo