Homes That are In Tune With Nature
Houses that live in harmony with their surroundings are showcased in a new book from CLB Architects
The Teton Range in Wyoming has long been a lure for adventurers and explorers, artists and nature lovers. Eric Logan, principal at CLB Architects in Jackson, Wyoming, is among them.
“I’m a product of the West,” says Logan, who was born in Casper and left to study architecture in Arizona. After spending the early part of his career turning warehouses into lofts in lower downtown Denver, he moved to Jackson, awed by its rugged beauty. “I had the opportunity to return to my home state, and I came to this part for lots of reasons, but especially the lifestyle and the connection to the mountains,” he says.
Logan and fellow principals Kevin Burke and Andy Ankeny today run CLB Architects, a firm with 40 employees and offices in Jackson and Bozeman, Montana. The company is known for its striking contemporary architecture and its philosophy of being “inspired by place.” Eleven of its residential projects are showcased in Inspired by Place, a 400-plus-pages book (ORO Editions).
“Spending their lives in the dramatic, expansive landscape of the Tetons has taught CLB’s designers not to be intimidated by nature’s grandeur, but to understand the role of architecture within it,” writes Seattle-based architect Tom Kundig in the book’s introduction.
“In a moment when our culture is infatuated by the loudest voice and the biggest move,” he adds, “we can learn much from CLB’s decidedly humble and modest approach, where the quiet beauty of the natural environment always takes center stage.”
Eric Logan and Sarah Kennedy, who oversees the company’s interior design team, shared their thoughts on architecture and design with Mountain Living. Their remarks have been edited for clarity and length.
MOUNTAIN LIVING: The book is titled Inspired by Place. Can you talk about what “place” means to you, specifically Jackson and Bozeman?
ERIC LOGAN: A lot of these beautiful sites that we have had the privilege of working on could be in national parks. We take the act of building on these sites and disturbing these sites very seriously. We’re trying to create quiet buildings that connect the occupants to their landscapes effectively and defer to the landscape. We’re not building castles at the top of a hill.
ML: When you started designing contemporary homes in Jackson, was your work considered radical by people used to more traditional Western homes?
LOGAN: When I arrived here in 1995, the clients were from urban locations, and they were coming out West to live out this kind of Western fantasy—and the architecture reflected that. There was a lot of national park-inspired work: stone and logs and very traditional forms. They were familiar to me, but if I traced back the references to upstate New York and the Adirondacks, transferring them to Wyoming was odd. Things like the barns and corral buildings that are ubiquitous here seemed like more tangible references to me. In addition, log buildings, because of the way they’re structured, meant that windows were cut out of the logs. We’re trying to make these buildings feel relevant and fit the place and also really connect people to the reasons we’re all here—which are these incredible views, the wildlife and the light quality.
ML: You describe the design mission at CLB Architects as “a bold contemporary spirit seeking original expression while referencing regional form and materials in creative ways.” How do you achieve that?
LOGAN: Part of what goes in to making buildings connect to place is pulling them apart and making big openings in them to create outdoor space. It allows these homes to reach out and touch all of these things that these beautiful sites have to offer. We’re typically trying to imbue these buildings with some warmth, so we use a lot of wood and regional stone.
SARAH KENNEDY: We’re about making sense from a practicality perspective. As much as our work is stunningly beautiful, we try to approach it by taking into consideration the harsh environment we live in, aesthetically and practically.
ML: How did you select the projects featured in the book?
LOGAN: They show a variety of ways to respond to this landscape. The sites are all very different and to my eye, the homes don’t look like the same project. One of the things I find personally satisfying is that the next 11 homes that are on the boards are being designed based on the same principles, but they don’t look like these.
ML: Some of the featured homes also showcase the firm’s interior design. How does that align with the architecture?
KENNEDY: For many years, we’d be doing the architecture and then a design firm would come in with a different vision and maybe they’d collide a little bit. As a design professional, you want to nurture every single element of a design and have the client’s personality shine through. In the Dogtrot project, from the displays on the bookshelves to the art on the walls, there’s a great layering effect. We played with warm textures, fabrics and accessories. We can infuse this place in the West with objects that are meaningful [to the homeowner].
ML: What is most rewarding about residential projects?
LOGAN: What helps me sleep at night is that although buildings disturb the land, we take seriously this idea that we’re creating legacy buildings. We’ve taken a 150-year mindset about detailing and materiality. We’re not interested in temporal solutions.
KENNEDY: From a furnishings standpoint, we have amazing local craftsmen that do a ton of custom work for us. Where we can use local people and local resources, we try to do it.
ML: Next year will be CLB’s 30th anniversary. How has the practice evolved, and what does the future hold?
LOGAN: We know we’re being as responsible as we can be, and the next thing for us is trying to use the same approach and the skills we’ve honed here in other parts of the country and the world. We have dabbled in Canada, we’ve got a project in Malibu, and in the fall, we’re working in the Berkshires. My hope is that the approach we’ve devised here is relevant in other geographical locations.