Courtesy of Matt Kisiday
The Catskills clubhouse decor draws on eclectic and vintage vibes to showcase the area's history in a modern way.

Workshop/APD Brings Community Hospitality For All to New York’s Catskills Mountains

July 12, 2023
The premier outdoor lodging brand Autocamp opened its latest property within historic West Saugerties last year, offering an outdoor hospitality experience for visitors to enjoy year-round.

Nestled within the lush forests and craggy mountains west of the Hudson River is AutoCamp’s second east coast location. The premier outdoor lodging brand opened its Catskills property within historic West Saugerties, NY last year, offering an outdoor hospitality experience for visitors to enjoy year-round.

The 37-acre property features 65 Airstreams, 10 cabins and 10 BaseCamps (an Airstream and luxury tent combo) equipped with HVAC systems for all-season weather, a hot tub and plunge pool as well as event spaces for meetings and family gatherings. The site was an existing campground with a large, natural clearing next to an older camp building. The brand centers their properties around an all-inclusive clubhouse with a check-in, bar and lounge accessible to all guests no matter the accommodations they’ve chosen. This location’s clubhouse and arrival area are set adjacent to the clearing with parking hidden amongst the trees. “There are some locations that just feel inevitable to us and Catskills has always been one of them due to the region’s consistently thriving cultural and outdoor scene,” said Neil Dipaola, CEO and founder of AutoCamp. They tapped New York’s Workshop/APD to design the West Saugerties Clubhouse (their second project with AutoCamp, the first being in Cape Cod). Michael Luft Weissberg, Workshop/APD managing director and senior associate, said Cape Cod featured similar architectural components as the Autocamp Yosemite site, whereas Catskills references the vernacular of upstate New York, the Hudson Valley and the cabin and timber atmosphere visitors drive through to reach the property. The clubhouse focuses on three materials in a timber frame, exposed concrete block and Douglas Fir (the local timber) pine plywood and planks.
Previous Autocamp clubhouses referenced mid-century modern design and a flat roof. Weissberg drew inspiration from traditional agrarian architecture and the local music culture when adjoining two barns for the Catskills Clubhouse. The structural timber frame features gabled masses with exposed post-and-beam interiors. Inside are repeating bays for the bar (which features a wall of glass that pairs nicely with the heavy wood use), reception area, indoor fire pit and lounge, morning breakfast and coffee service through a partnership with 2 Queens Coffee, as well as meeting rooms.

Communal spaces are outfitted with internal and external fire pits and seating to provide a place for people to come together to make music, underscoring the proximity of the property to Woodstock. A quilted art piece hangs from the barn structure, highlighting the history of surrounding barns visitors pass on their way. Architectural glass pieces offer openness to the forest for guests and the airy feel is punctuated by skylights to accentuate the indoor and outdoor connections. A covered porch extends on the backside of the clubhouse and is furnished with a variety of seating options and heaters, making it accessible for every season.

“The Catskills region provided us with a tremendous amount of architectural and design inspiration,” said Andrew Kline, Workshop/APD design director, associate principal. “The design supports a wide range of interests and ultimately creates connectivity with the outdoors, with fellow travelers, and the community for a truly local, unforgettable experience.”

Clubhouse décor draws on eclectic and vintage vibes as well as from local art to showcase the area’s history in a modern way. Furniture with expressive and honest fabrication was selected to further the intention of bringing outdoor hospitality indoors. The pieces were sourced to fit the brand look of “mid-century yet campy,” so the interior design features items with belts, buckles and that look homemade. If Workshop/APD couldn’t source a piece, they built it. The indoor fireplace space and the retail space feature heavy stacks of timber. The timber in front of the fireplace was cut into an oval for guests to rest their feet on and the retail space timber offers display shelving for goods. Other crafted items are the communal dining table with integrated power and custom-designed Warp & Weft workshop rugs in the main lounge space.

Nearly a year into the project, the pandemic caused delays in the fabrication of the timber frame, shipment of doors and windows and limited the availability of craftsmen, carpenters, and framers. Meeting at an outdoor campsite during the pandemic was possible, which kept the project moving forward.

Another challenge was the budget, but several materials were integrated into the design and aesthetics, so it was important to Workshop/APD that they remain in the project.

The timber frame is not the cheapest way to build a structure, but an honest, expressive way to build, explained Weissberg. The wood is milled into 25-foot timbers and joined with dowel and connections to create clean, square lines. It was in danger when considering cost but was saved as it was a structural element of the building. “Doing it in a clean, modern way is a challenge to make things square and true to keep the openness,” he said. “There’s no place to hide anything. All the joints had to be done cleanly and expressed.”

There are also 12-foot-high sliding barn doors that give character, reference the local barns, and serve as space creators.

“You have to fight for your design when you put something forth that’s not inexpensive and is aesthetically important,” Weissberg said. “When integrated into the structure, it’s hard to take it out when a job gets expensive. Our message to fellow designers is that expressing architecture is a challenge, especially when working with builders to build things the way you want them to and not the way they would normally assemble them. It takes a lot of learning on behalf of the architect.”

The clubhouse project was able to hold on to Workshop/APD’s original intentions thanks to their dedication, enveloping guests not only into the structure but also the surrounding forest—allowing all guests the ability to experience both hospitality design and nature at its finest.

About the Author

Lauren Brant | Editor at BUILDINGS

Lauren Brant is the editor of BUILDINGS. Prior to joining Endeavor Business Media, she served as deputy news editor at a daily and editor of a weekly newspaper. She is an award-winning editor and writer.

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