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General Contractor: Walworth Construction Inc. - Completed 1994, wine room addition; 1997

A private residence for a family wishing to live in the central Idaho mountains. The building is sited on a small, very steep lot within the City of Sun Valley, Idaho. The lot has a limited building area dictated by existing municipal set-backs, conservation of an existing active irrigation canal which bisects the property, and avalanche potential as determined by a natural hazard consultant. Furthermore, geotechnical investigation revealed that the entire sloped area of the site consisted of solid andesite bedrock located six inches below the topsoil.

The building was located on the site to preserve the existing natural vegetation to the greatest extent possible, oriented towards major mountain views, avoid existing rock outcroppings intended to be integrated into the outdoor living spaces, and bridge the active irrigation canal which divides the site.

The building was designed with a narrow profile to limit the exposure of the potential avalanche impact. The rear walls and roof structure were designed to support avalanche loading and placed perpendicular to the potential avalanche path so as not to deflect the snow to adjoining neighbors homes. Additional design concerns included appropriate responses for building in snow country. The exceptionally steep site required an imported fill ramp to be put in-place to provide access for drilling rigs to drill for charges to blast the solid rock slope prior to excavating for foundations. Additional care was required during construction so as not to disturb the irrigation canal. The unstable substrata rock formations required concrete shoring and stabilization at several foundation locations as well.

The buildings form identifies directly with the sixty-eight percent slope of the site and the column-free, open construction created spectacular interior volumes. The direct relationship between the window and ceiling angles and the actual angle of the site help relate the buildings and its occupants to this challenging and beautiful mountain environment. The exterior of the home is clad in cedar shingles and finished in a natural bleaching oil to allow the entire building (walls and roof) to take on a modeled appearance and blend with the native sagebrush, grasses, and rocks of the site. Other exterior materials include raw aluminum window cladding, natural stone fireplace chimneys, copper chimney caps, redwood decking, and aluminum cold roof screening.

Native riparian and mountain landscape materials have been incorporated to pay further homage to this unique site. Cascading decks chiseled into the mountainside have been softened with native trees and planting fit into stone “planters” on the site. The decks have been built around existing rock outcroppings and crafted to them. The building has been fit “in” to the site and numerous doors provide direct access to the hillside at all levels of the home.

The interior of the home is designed to be open and bright with soaring volumes. The guests enter the home at the flat portion of the site through custom art-glass doors under a human-scale shed roof. Upon entry, visitors immediately cross a bridge spanning the canal and enter into the lower level housing a mud room, exercise room, storage rooms, and the mechanical room positioned to be the “heart of the building” for efficient mechanical layout and link to the central fireplace mass to facilitate integration of furnace flues through this central stack.

Continuing up into the home visitors experience a dramatic change in volume as they climb the stairwell to the main level. The house unfolds completely in a dramatic explosion of continuous, open, volumes revealing the diningroom, kitchen, breakfast room, livingroom, den, and master bedroom as “trays” of spaces built into the mountainside. The continuous shed roof soars sixty-five feet from the dining level to the apex of the gable roof. The interior are composed of painted drywall, maple flooring, stainless steel ribbons, and maple cabinets to form a bright, warm finish with strong northern European influences. The architect selected the furnishings, provided the lighting design and selection of fixtures, as well as designing the diningroom table.

The highlight of a visit to this residence is the wine room which is located deep in the lower core of the house. This room has been designed to express the existing solid-rock hillside by integrating it directly into the room. 1100 bottles of wine are elegantly housed and displayed within this special space of custom maple cabinetry and wine racks juxtaposed with stainless steel back panels and natural stone to create a sophisticated modern wine grotto.

The resulting composition of organic architecture and clean modern interiors offers a beautiful, dramatic, warm home which fits into its environment and responds well to the extreme conditions of the site.

2015 Mark Pynn Architect