A Home with a Spirit as Old as the Rockies

View all 15 Photos

When asked to design Studhorse, a residential home in Winthrop, Washington state, architecture firm Olson Kundig approached the project as a challenge to create a space that engages the surrounding environment throughout all four seasons of the year. Set within the Methow Valley, which was formed by a slouching glacier millennium ago, the site indeed offered a difficult challenge as its climate ranges from blistering hot summers to winters marked by heavy snowfall.

The true flow of the space lies in how it blends the boundaries between what’s built and what’s natural.

As the client family expressed their love of adventures and the outdoors, OK decided to compose the home as four buildings that act akin to tents around a campground, with tough shells and cozy cores, all centered around a courtyard and pool. The courtyard may be more manicured than the nearby nature, but distinguishes itself thanks to an unusually large rock intentionally left by the architects on the site. This rock is a glacial erratic, dropped by the receding glacier as it formed the valley, and by building around it the firm is able to treat it as a natural piece of furniture instead of simply a nuisance that disrupts the “flow” of the architecture. It’s key that this differentiation is made, as upon further inspection of the architecture’s rhythm it becomes apparent that the true flow of the space lies in how it blends the boundaries between what’s built and what’s natural, as this rock perfectly demonstrates. This blur is also witnessed in the abundance of glass walls offering uninterrupted panoramas for the family to enjoy year-round, especially in the publicly oriented spaces such as the living room. Best of all, during the warmer months these glass walls can be opened up to prevent the spaces from overheating and further letting the occupants enjoy their outdoor lifestyle.

This award winning piece of architecture has innumerable moments I could try to point out for why it’s such a wonderful testament to good design, (and already I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite moves), but the last thing I’ll point out is one peculiar moment that goes against the space’s goal to blur indoor and outdoor; a concrete fireplace in the glass living room that interrupts the view I earlier claimed to be uninterrupted (sorry about that). The reason this resonates so much with me is that it transforms the home from simply an enclosed viewing space (as if you’re on safari or at a zoo) to a meditation on family. By blocking the view, it asks the viewer to turn their gaze towards the others around them, who are also glowing in the warmth of the fire, to tell stories and share memories together in a primal way that for me recalls the very reason humans developed architecture in the first place. So while this building embodies the forefront of architecture and design, its spirit is as old as the (literal) touchstone that occupies such an important place in its courtyard. Images © Benjamin Benschneider, courtesy of Olson Kundig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nathaniel Barlam

Nathaniel

Amid the unrest of earning his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from RISD, Nathaniel manages to find the time to read, write, hang out with friends, play drums, and listen to music. Nathaniel has learned a lot about architecture firsthand thanks to opportunities to live and work in Rome and Brooklyn during the past year. Coming from a family with strong roots in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Nathaniel has always maintained a strong love for NYC especially, and after his studies finish up in Providence he may move there for a while. He hasn't decided yet. You can connect with him via Linkedin or by visiting his Portfolio page.

Featured Products Explore new arrivals at the Gessato Shop

Take me there

  • The Kumaon

    A serene mountain retreat in the Himalayas. Located 1600m above sea level in the Village…

  • The Yays – Crane Apartment

    Sleeping in an industrial crane while visiting Amsterdam. Dutch company Yays is a new travel…

  • Babylonstoren

    An unforgettable hotel experience. In recent years, more and more tourists have started focusing on…

  • Michelberger Hotel, Berlin

    A hotel that feels like home. Berlin is filled with cool things to discover, but…

More for you

                array(5) {
  ["post__not_in"]=>
  array(1) {
    [0]=>
    int(156385)
  }
  ["tag__not_in"]=>
  array(2) {
    [0]=>
    int(16203)
    [1]=>
    int(9208)
  }
  ["posts_per_page"]=>
  int(12)
  ["caller_get_posts"]=>
  int(1)
  ["cat"]=>
  int(6178)
}
            
  • TL House

    An extension that expands both indoor and outdoor living spaces. Built in the 1970s in…

  • PH House

    A tastefully restored villa with a design-rich history. After a devastating fire almost destroyed this…

  • Trout Lake House

    A modern artist retreat inspired by agricultural buildings. Owned by an artist couple, Trout Lake…

  • Casa Hualle

    A dark, modern house built in the Chilean countryside. Standing tall in a gorgeous natural…

  • CCC House

    A modern extension that complements a traditional house. Located close to the center of Caniço,…

  • ILL House By INT2 Architecture

    A contemporary wooden house strongly linked to nature. Located in the middle of a woodland,…

  • Villa Sandmeier

    A contemporary house inspired by Japanese pavilions. Built in Veyrier, Switzerland, in a rural area…

  • Sonoma Wine Country Residence

    A modern home deeply connected to nature. Even before stepping inside the Sonoma Wine Country…

  • House In Serralves

    Brutalist simplicity. Portuguese architect João Vieira de Campos designed House in Serralves with a spartan…

  • L’Accostée House

    A contemporary house nestled into a natural landscape. Located on the shores of Lac St-François…

  • Albino Ortega House

    An oasis-like living space. Admiring it from the road, the Albino Ortega House looks striking…

Close Cart