Colorado ASLA Awards Submission Category 4: Residential Design
Teton Overlook - where natural processes are encouraged Jackson, Wyoming
Project Introduction – Teton Overlook is a studied balance of wilderness and cultivation as well as a garden where natural edges form the boundaries; together these elements create the experience of a designed landscape encompassed by nature. It’s a garden where natural processes are encouraged; “the more moss that grows between the stones, the better” was the anecdotal observation of the designer. The sloping topography of this site renders the classic 180º-view of the Teton Range, including the Grand Tetons, illuminated by a foreground of cottonwood bosques and ranchlands. Achieving a subtle balance of protection and expansion in this exposed location required an intimate knowledge of seasonal changes, topographic undulations and native vegetation patterns. Sheltered spaces maximize outdoor living desires despite the climatic challenges of a north-facing slope, a steady southwesterly wind and a relatively short growing season.
Design Intent –Teton Overlook’s sloping site north of Jackson, Wyoming offers spectacular views of the Teton Range – including the Grand Tetons – that are illuminated in the foreground by sinuous cottonwood bosques and ranchlands. The garden’s sheltered space provides extensive outdoor living opportunities, despite the climate’s challenges of bitterly cold winters, steady southwesterly winds and significant shade. Achieving a subtle balance of protection and expansion in this dramatic and exposed location required the designers to have special knowledge of seasonal changes, topography and native plant patterns. Role of Landscape Architect –The landscape architect collaborated closely with the owner and the home’s architect in Jackson. The simple lines of the stone and timber home express its commitment to human utility and environmental sustainability. Natural materials and architectural details unite the linear series of living spaces that respond to the topography. The architectural style is grounded in a Western vernacular, with minimal impressionistic boundaries between the domestic and wild. In the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, the design team employed the concepts of prospect and refuge in the interlaced interior and exterior spaces and in design that gives way to views of the valley. Exposure to the elements, a common concern in mountain environments, is balanced with protective devices such as a controlled entrance. The inspiration of Charles and Henry Greene’s design for the Gamble House in Pasadena, California, was suggested in the use of natural materials such as stone and wood and the craftsman-like details of the courtyard pergola, walled gardens and sheltered spaces. Colorado ASLA Awards Submission Category 4: Residential Design
Special Factors – The north side of the home, in contrast, offers generous outdoor spaces that are open to the Albert Bierstadt-like landscape of tall jagged peaks and a broad valley floor punctuated by stands of cottonwood trees. Natural topographic changes in the hillside have been accommodated by level changes and elegant sandstone walls that offer privacy and a respite from the elements. The terrace walls extend into the landscape, intersected by carefully placed and angled glacial rock deposits. These large chunks of Wyoming granite create topographic relief and establish a link to the native outcroppings found in the valley. Boundaries are blurred as the lawn blends almost imperceptibly into the native sage meadows.
The driveway meanders through a rolling landscape and an existing stand of aspen and spruce trees. The tree screen, which opens just enough to allow entrance to the property, buffers the persistent south-westerly wind, whose presence is a reminder of the extreme climate changes that can occur at any time in this high-mountain valley. The auto courtyard, a square plaza with contrasting paving in a grid pattern, leads to the free-standing garage, dug into the hillside and sodded over with native grasses.
Two small sandstone columns mark the main walkway leading to the front door. An allée of tightly spaced, native cottonwood trees flanks the entry walk. The linear character of this sequence is comple-mented on the west side by a series of garden rooms that are reflected in the windows of the main house and by a wooden pergola overhead – both of which visually and physically connect the interior and exterior. On the east side of the walk, a series of walls and steps leads to the guest house, located uphill of the main house. Lush carpets of low-growing groundcovers, interrupted periodically by stone outcroppings, soften the edges of the walkway. Peonies and lupine bloom profusely in the microclimates created by the walls; small gardens of herbs and cutting flowers lend an element of domesticity to this tranquil space. Trickling down high walls, the sound of water, an element not naturally found in this vast and windy landscape, echoes in the space. Significance– The careful site design of this project proves that a big view is but one major factor around which to create livable outdoor space. The house is rotated approximately 25º off its natural due-north aspect in order to capitalize on the site’s expansive views and to capture the sun at the times of day when the owners are most likely be in outdoors. And, while the view is a major influence in the planning and design of the property, the protected areas on the opposite side of the house also offer the opportunity for quiet contemplation and intimate entertainment. Because of the protection offered by the natural topographic incline to the south and the façade of the house to the north, the plant palette, otherwise limited at this elevation, is expanded to include forms, color, texture and bloom times.
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