Crooked Pine Residence

5100 sf, 3 bedroom, 2-1/2 bath, single family residence constructed of native stain-face sandstone and synthetic stucco. The home was designed and constructed for a lawyer and his wife, a physician, from Chicago.  Also part of the project are two outlying pavilions; one, a 204 sf exercise pavilion with sod roof, that houses fitness and workout equipment, and the second, a 420 sf shower pavilion with guest loft, bathroom, steam shower and adjoining outdoor spa.

Design Goals  

As I see it, there is only one reason for the development of art in America, and that is that the people of America learn the means of expressing themselves in their own time and in their own land  -  Robert Henri, American Impressionist (1910).

This residence is an investigation into developing an architectural vocabulary called “organic impressionism” that expresses a truly “Western” architecture that define specific qualities, place and context.  This architecture was inspired by several factors.  The client met Frank Lloyd Wright after winning the Illinois State High School Architectural Competition.  This encounter created a desire on both the client and architect’s part to create a structure that used materials from the site, similar to Wright’s Fallingwater.  The geology of the site, with its eroding sandstone formation on the ridge above and subsequent rubble, inspired the fractile geometry of the floor plan.  The forms comprising the residence are inspired by memories of an earlier architecture, i.e. the Anasazi kiva, and the unique edge condition that exists at this site.  The site is located where the Great Plains meet the planes of the Rocky Mountains.

A second goal of the design was to minimize impact to the site and to views from the adjacent neighbors and US Highway 36.   The residence was dropped into the hillside to minimize the impact of its size, and colors and materials were selected to harmonize with the surrounding environment.  The 100-year old Crooked Pine tree was saved and made a feature point by sensitive placement of the main house. Native vegetation was re-introduced after construction.

Unique Architectural/Concept Features Stain-face sandstone blasted from the excavation of the site was re-laid in the exterior and interior walls of the main house and the exercise pavilion.  Commercial storefront and residential clad windows were used to provide two categories of views.  The commercial windows to provide the panoramic view to the plains and the residential windows to provide Zen views up the slope of the hillside.  Additionally the commercial storefront overhead glazing at the kitchen and dining blurs the distinction between inside and outside.

The materials in the main house and the pavilions were selected to create and blend with the context of the site.  Vibrant stucco textures and colors were selected to enhance the experience of daylight and changing sky coloring.  The use of rusted metal for the structural column at the entry and the hammered railings hearken back to the images of abandoned mining equipment from the 1800’s.  The shower pavilion is sheathed in 60 year-old Wyoming snow fence to blend with the bark coloring of adjacent trees and to provide the texture that only weathering can produce.  Inside the house, colored concrete radiant-heat floor slabs are used to evoke clay floors and root the residence to the earth.

Attention was paid to energy efficiency for the residence and the pavilions.  The structures are controlled by a “smart house technology” with the radiant-slab heating system and evaporative cooling system controlled by a computer brain that regulates temperature and humidity based on outside weather conditions.  Also, the outlying pavilions are separately zoned by the computer and can be completely shut down when not in use.

Spatial relationship in the main residence is created by allowing spaces to flow together.  Room volume is varied to provide different experiences with progression through the house and along the mountain.  The distinction between inside and outside is blurred by continuation of the stone and plaster walls from inside to outside.  Spatial form and volume also recall different contextual forms such as box canyons and the inclusion of a waterfall grotto at the transition between the private and public regions of the house
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Completed 1995.

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