8 Brilliant Examples of Site-Integrated Architecture
These homes in the Rocky Mountain West were meticulously informed by their surroundings. The result is effortless beauty.
Photos courtesy of Ward + Blake Architects
Oftentimes, when a person envisions the design of their new home, they start with a stylistic notion of how they want the house to look. While personal style preference should always be taken into account, a much more important architectural factor should take center stage: the amenities of the site. By carefully considering things like the primary views, solar orientation, and direction of prevailing winds, your dream home will not only look as if it arose from its site like the sunrise over the mountains—but it could also improve its energy efficiency and minimize its impact, tying its design to the land in yet another meaningful way.
These stunning homes in the Rocky Mountain West each incorporate artful architectural techniques that were meticulously informed by their unique sites.
This home in Jackson, Wyoming’s Amangani resort community is built into the hillside, literally integrating its design into its site. A series of sod roofs match the natural contours of the landscape, reducing the home’s footprint and staying sensitive to the surroundings.
Enclosed almost entirely in glass, this home frames 360-degree views of stunning summits, blurring the line between inside and outside living. The design incorporates enough height to also capture a good portion of sky above the mountains—creating a solid sense of location. All the windows carry a 20 percent tint to protect against sun exposure and glare in the winter months.
Designed to preserve as much of the natural landscape as possible, this home boasts a flat roof embedded into the hillside, which flows into gables, creating a two-part edge. The architecture also pays homage to the historical context of the area—sitting as a modern reinterpretation of the log cabins of early settlers.
Along with a design that incorporates panoramic views of the Tetons beyond, this home’s inverted roof—one of the first of its kind in the Jackson area—keeps the exterior sight line of the summits intact. The architecture boasts multiple levels that work their way down the hillside, and the color of the concrete elements was carefully matched to natural limestone found on the property. One may wonder why this home just looks so equalized amid an undulating landscape. The answer? While many mountain homes’ rooftops mimic the slope of the site, causing them to feel like they’re tilting sideways, this home creates a more reassuring sense of balance; the left side of the roof mimics the downslope of the mountain range beyond, and the right side of the roof runs parallel to the upslope of the hill it is on.
Nestled near a pond amid an aspen grove, this home’s floor-to-ceiling windows invite the outdoor scenery to become an active participant in its interior decor. As the leaves change with the seasons, so does the great room’s color palette. During the summertime, the lush green background is echoed in the green tones of the area rug. During the fall, when the grass and trees start to turn golden, so too does the attention turn toward the golden and wood-toned hues of the room. The design is dynamic year-round.
Situated on a 160-acre wheat farm, this long and linear home stretches out across the site. Its architecture pays tribute to the horizontality of the landscape and blends in with its natural surroundings. Low-sloped overhangs are broken into pods by flat sod roofs, and abundant floor-to-ceiling glass allows the homeowners to continually feel connected to their property and admire the long-distance views of the Tetons beyond.
Ten million years ago, this rock formation was at the bottom of a shallow inland sea. Now it serves as the site for this home in Teton county and is one of the few places in the state of Wyoming where the rock formation is thrust up above the sediment layer. Designed to echo the rock outcropping’s color, texture, and rhythm, the home features an inverted roof that mimics an irregular skyline and earthen walls, about 16 inches thick, crafted from native soil.
Far too often, architects decide to cut a flat pad into the hillside and then restructure the dirt around the design. While it might make things easier, this approach forfeits a major sense of connection between the architecture and its site. No short cuts were taken with this retreat, which was cut into the natural slope of the site like a puzzle piece. The home’s geometric design, along with its natural materials, create the sense that it truly belongs.
Mitch Blake, AIA and Tom Ward, AIA are the founding architects of Ward + Blake Architects, an architecture firm based in Jackson, Wyoming, that specializes in environmentally specific design. View their profile or contact them at 307.733.6867.
Content for this article provided by Ward + Blake Architects.