Thursday, April 2, 2009

canyon house

architect: Thomas Shafer (Grunsfeld Shafer Architects)
design: 1993-1996
construction: 1997-1999
general contractor: Lowell Construction
photography: Scot Zimmerman Photography
text source: GA Houses, Mar 1996, n. 48, p.108

Site plan from GA Houses, Mar 1996, n. 48, p.109

Site: The site is located at the mouth of the Little Cottonwood Canyon at the beginning of a scenic, canyon road which ascends to the Alta and Snowbird ski resorts. At the base of the Wasatch Mountain range, the site offers spectacular panoramic views up and down the canyon.

Floor plans from GA Houses, Mar 1996, n. 48, p.108

Program: A 6400-square-foot three-story single-family residence which must eventually accommodate "single," "married" and "family" stages of life while continually providing an intriguing living experience between the interior and exterior.

Model from GA Houses, Mar 1996, n. 48, p.109

Design solution: The design has been consciously stratified, both sectionally and geologically in order to heighten one's understanding of "place," either within the carved sub-terranean environment of thick walls and slot windows, or on the exposed "shelf" of the living room. The upper floor turns it back on the panoramic world, both concealing and securing its inhabitant in the privacy of the office and master bedroom suite.

Picture of foyer by Scot Zimmerman Photography

The "Pavilion" positions itself to embrace the panoramic views north to the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island and Salt Lake City. Easterly views up Little Cottonwood Canyon reveal vibrant and rugged mountain vistas. The "shelf" provides an expansive and limitless base for the "Pavilion," spatially contained only by the form of its floating roof.

Elevation from GA Houses, Mar 1996, n. 48, p.109

The "Box," on the other hand, has been designed for semi-private spaces such as the kitchen and dining room on the first level and personal and professional privacy on the Upper level offering localized and framed views "up" the mountain. This upper level suite in direct response to the "individual" in both scale and detail, provides the secluded and tranquil area of the house. In contrast to the transparency of the "Pavilion," the more residential enclosure system of the "Box" is of cedar cladding with operable wood windows and doors.

The "Parterre" accommodates the programmatic requirement of an exterior living space for personal lounging and entertaining. A bi-level cedar deck provides for both winter and summer activities. Additional outdoor "rooms" have been developed within the interstitial spaces between the three components and the excavated "shelf." Formal entry requires ascension through a carved-out space between "Box" and "Pavilion."

Section sketch from Grunsfeld Shafer Architects website

Section from GA Houses, Mar 1996, n. 48, p.109

The profile and mass remains intentionally "horizontal" and low, contributing to a minimalist "bulk," burying nearly half of the living space below grade. This effort enables a particularly large volume to "appear" smaller and offers the user an opportunity to experience both the concealed and exposed environments within the house. Circulation through the house is noticeably effortless when moving "with" the mountain yet becomes consciously more difficult when one moves against the natural grade, either descending or ascending sectionally.

Picture by Scot Zimmerman Photography

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