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AVALANCHE HOUSE

General Contractor: Upham Construction Inc. - Completed for the new millenium - December 1999

This guesthouse is a response to the challenge of providing housing for several extended families together in one place during vacation visits to this central Idaho resort. The site is adjacent to the main house, has a limited building area due to its close proximity to the street and adjoining neighbors, an active irrigation canal which bordered one side of the building’s location, and could not be disturbed, and an imposing sixty-eight percent avalanche slope behind.

Designed as a “W” in plan, the lower level has thick reinforced concrete avalanche walls, in the form of a “V” in plan, at the east and south which are finished with Beaverhead slate natural stone veneer. The north and west sides which open to the street and views are clad with cedar shingles with a bleaching oil finish, matching the main house and permitting the building to take on a modeled appearance, blending with the natural hillside behind.

A conscience effort has been made to create a strong horizontal emphasis for the building. Horizontal window, siding, and stone veneer pattern have all been incorporated to help “ground” this building with its flat site.

The main entry is comprised of two large, center pivoting, glass panels which come together to create a transparent corner at the base of the street elevation. Opposite of the entry, large, exposed reinforced concrete beams cantilever out from the stone base to carry the great room and roof deck over the irrigation canal and avalanche hillside. Beneath this cantilever is a children’s play area with a swing fastened to the concrete beam.

The interiors have a natural, modern appearance with smooth white walls and occasional, surprising accent color walls. The floors are natural stone, clear maple wood, or carpet. The ceilings are maple plywood with vertical grain fir blocking. The resulting composition provides the building with an abundance of natural materials and a warm glow from concealed, indirect lighting. The building is orientated around a natural stone center shaft which houses three fireplaces, their flues, various mechanical flues, and many roof drains.

The highlight of this guesthouse is a visit to the roof deck area providing extensive outdoor living and entertainment space with spectacular views. These roof decks were facilitated by utilizing the contemporary, low slope roof design beneath the wooden “dock floor” decks. Low slope roofs with single membrane roofing materials provide exceptional roofs in heavy snow country. With carefully placed internal drains that remain warm in winter, these roofs deal with the challenges of snow without creating drips or snow shedding onto occupants or eaves.

The architect was responsible for all interior finish selections, lighting design, and furniture selection. He designed the dining room table, dishes, bunk beds, occasional tables, and pool cue rack.

The resulting guesthouse is a modern composition akin to the existing house next-door in materials and natural landscaping, but uniquely responsive to its site and individual in its building form.

2015 Mark Pynn Architect