Like a scene from a science fiction movie, the Wagon Station Encampment, consists of 10 sleeping pods, called wagon stations, as well as a communal outdoor kitchen, open-air showers, and composting toilets.
The experimental project was conceived by artist Andrea Zittel who describes the encampment as “a cross between a retreat and a residency and a normal campground.”
Zittel is known for her explorations into self-sufficient and sustainable living systems.
The encampment—described as having a science-fiction aesthetic—is located on a 35-acre site near Joshua Tree National Park, which is dotted with unusual rock formations rising up from a vast expanse of high desert.
The metal-and-wood shelters are meant to evoke the classic family station wagons, along with the covered, horse-drawn wagons that were common in the settlement of the West.
“I’m so drawn to the frontier mentality, and having to figure everything out from scratch,” said Zittel.
“Everybody has their desert fantasy. My particular fantasy was probably living on an alien landscape.”
While the pods do not have wheels, they can be easily collapsed, moved, and reassembled. Guests enter their pod by unlocking and lifting up the front panel, which can be propped up and left open.
The panel has a transparent strip that enables occupants to view the surrounding landscape and sky while lying on their bed.
Inside, the enclosure contains a mattress, clothing hooks, and a small door for ventilation.
The campsite is “open to anyone who feels an affinity with Andrea’s mission in the high desert, including (but not limited to) other artists, writers, thinkers, hikers, campers, or those who are engaged in other forms of cultural or personal research,” according to the artist’s website.
The Encampment is open during two seasons each year—one month in the fall (usually October) and one month in the spring (generally between April 15 and May 15).
2016 Fall sessions include October 2-8, October 9-15, October 16-22, October 23-29, and October 30-November 5.
Guests can reserve a pod for one- to two-week periods, and are expected to contribute to the functioning of the camp. Each season is divided into week-long sessions—visitors ideally stay for one or two sessions, with arrivals occurring on Sunday and departures on Saturday.
Those interested in reserving a spot are required to submit a completed application, a short bio, and a non-refundable $20 application fee. If the application is accepted, a $100 weekly session fee is required in order to complete the reservation.
Over the last few years, staying at the Wagon Station Encampment was free of charge, however, as interest grew, so did the work and effort to keep it running.
To offset the amount of work required to open the Encampment to the public, the decision was made to charge an application fee as well as a weekly session fee. These fees go toward paying the A-Z staff to handle administrative logistics, grounds maintenance, and long term care of the Encampment.
The current shelters are second-generation wagon stations. In the early 2000s, Zittel and her artist friends created a series of similar pods, which were eventually dismantled due to wear and tear.
The campsite is part of a larger property known as A-Z West, which was established in 2000. It contains Zittel’s primary residence, a studio, and shop facility, and a collection of shipping containers converted into apartments.
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