The Rocky Mountains
Alexander Gorlin’s multi-award-winning home in geneSsEe, colorado HAS won the praise of the architectural design community three years in a row
This house is conceived both as an abstraction of the landscape on which it is situated and as a reinhabited ruin—a ruin built in reverse. Located on a steep, heavily wooded site in the Rocky Mountains, the house is organized along two axes, forming a pinwheel plan inserted into the site between two ravines. Stone walls extending into the landscape form the image of a ruin “found” in the inhabited wilds, and are reinhabited with the program of the house. These vertical surfaces echo the nature of the site, while mediating between the exterior and interior spaces of the house.
From the drive, the guesthouse defines one end of the exterior court, from which one enters the main house by a bridge over a ravine, penetrating a massive stone wall. Along this wall, a compressed terraced corridor allows access to the primary public spaces of the house, each room framing the view beyond. The wall/corridor terminates into the mountainside, from which a tower is projected. On the roof of the tower, an exterior room provides a view to the stepped roof terraces of the house. These terraces recall the suburban lawn while re-establishing a ground plane as usable space for informal activity. There is a constant interplay between inside and outside, blurring the boundary between the two so that one feels part of the wooded site.
The second arm of the cruciform forms the entry to the house through a driveway forecourt and underground garage. One enters the house over a steel bridge above a ravine that preserves an elk migratory path through the site. Through a set of sliding steel doors into the curving entry hall, the dining room overlooks the living room below and the kitchen and family room beyond. The children’s wing is separate from the parents’ tower, with the husband’s office above, looking to the view of snow-capped Mt Evans. Flat terraces provide areas for informal activity that otherwise would be missing from the steep site.
The house is “green,” oriented to the mountain winds, so that there is no need for air conditioning. A broad overhang protects the house from the summer sun, but is open to the winter rays. The house is geothermally heated so as not to rely on fossil fuels.
The terraced site, with its stone walls, recalls Dante’s ascent in Purgatory: “Now we were drawing closer; we had reached the part from which—where first I’d seen a breach, precisely like a gap that cleaves a wall. He led us to a cleft in the rock … approach, the steps are close at hand; from this point on one can climb easily.” TME
Alexander Gorlin, FAIA, opened his practice in 1987 after winning the Rome Prize in Architecture. Architectural Digest named Alexander Gorlin one of the 30 American Deans of Design in 2005 and has named him one of the Top 100 Architects in the United States for three years consecutively.