In a collaboration with ACI Design:Build, we have been working on the design for a new house up on Sunshine Canyon.
Built on the site of a house lost to the Fourmile Wildfire, this house has been designed to be highly tuned, or optimized to its spectacular panoramic site.
With views spanning over 270 degrees, from the level plains of eastern Colorado and Denver beyond, to the 12,000 foot high peaks of the Rocky Mountain Indian Peaks Wilderness, this house disperses itself radially to take in these views while simultaneously creating a sheltered interior courtyard to create a protected area away from the ridge's incessant winds.
The base of the house rises out of the rocky landscape with a lower level of battered buff sandstone. The main level of the house is composed of a rhythmic series of windows and rain screen panels with the exterior walls shifting inward and projecting out toward the view. The overall shape of the house is like a slightly warped horseshoe enclosing a large entry court. Flanking terraces on both the east and west sides of the house slope up with the surrounding landscape as the house is both nestled down into the site as well as rising up from the landscape.
The geometry of the house consists of a series of interlocking radial segments, circles within circles, overlapping and echoing like ripples in a pond.
This geometry establishes the rhythm of the sequence of spaces of the house as it attempts to bring in the surrounding landscape. The shifting views from the house, from the rising sun over the flat plains to sun setting over the jagged peaks, tracks around the house as the sun progresses across the sky. That daily progress becomes an embedded sundial that organizes the house.
On a much larger temporal scale, the curving roof of the house shifts its relationship with the spaces below and their associated windows to modulate the amount of sunlight entering into the house during the different months of the year. Allowing full sunlight deep into the house in January, the radiant concrete slab acts as a warming thermal mass. In the summer, the wide, radial overhangs blocks the daytime sunlight and the house remains cool and shaded while still allowing huge expanses of glass to take in the panoramic views.
Every house really does act as both a clock and a calendar, marking the daylight and the seasons, whether we design for it or not. Best to let that guide the shape of the house in such an open and exposed site, a carefully tuned timepiece carefully resting between earth and sky.