mountain house - big sky, montana
Embedded in the foothills of Wilson Peak and encompassed by panoramic views of the Rockies, the Mountain House was designed on top of the existing cruciform foundation walls of an obsolete building that had been damaged beyond repair by neglect and decades of exposure to Montana’s merciless elements. Shaped by its context and the unique characteristics of the surrounding landscape, the Mountain House seeks a low profile, one that follows the lines of the site’s inclining topography and complements it with a series of flat and gently sloping volumes and planes, creating a quietly animated roofscape that subtly echoes the mountain ridges in the distance.
Organization: In a carefully choreographed entry sequence, visitors descend a hill and take steps down into a small sunken courtyard covered with a linear wood canopy. The wood canopy leads to a large entry pivot door and extends inside into the entry vestibule, which links the different parts of the building. Kitchen, dining, bedrooms and laundry are consolidated in a one-story volume that opens up to a long, south-facing terrace, its roof plane dramatically extending as a deep overhang and trellis protecting the house from the elements. Open stairs in the entry vestibule connect to the gently rising two-story bar intersecting the base volume and terminate in a small observatory, its tilted plane carefully countervailing the sloping metal shed roof that it penetrates. Large-scale apertures – custom sliding glass doors, windows, and pivot doors – frame generous views into the alpine scenery outside and connect the inside to a series of “buffer” spaces on the outside – covered patios, louvered terraces, and courtyards that blur the line between interior and exterior and link the two as a reciprocal pair exploiting the qualities of contemporary life in the mountains.
Materiality: The house is built around a palette of sustainable and highly durable materials to make this a “house for life,” its muted colors and textures inspired by the vernacular architecture dotting the Rocky Mountains landscape. The building is clad in charred cedar boards, using a century-old finishing process known in Japan as shou sugi ban. The process of charring functions as a natural preservative that extends the life of the siding up to eighty years, reliably protecting the material against rot, insects, and the onslaught of Montana’s extreme climate, all without the use of synthetic sealers or stains. The silver-black of the charred surfaces is contrasted by the smoothness and subtle sheen of clear cedar and the animated, corrugated texture of Corten steel cladding, its ferrous corrosion complementing a building envelope designed to weather gracefully over time.