Millennium Dream House

Mountain Life

Visitors to Eric Logan’s SKI Dream House would be struck immediately by two salient design features: the curving, asymmetrical roof and the house’s strong linear orientation along an east-west axis.

Logan, 32, won the prestigious 1998 American Institute of Architects (Western Mountain Region) Award of Honor for his own home, built on the sage flats near Jackson Hole, Wyo. Both that structure and the one he designed for SKI are influenced by a Western building Logan admires: the hay shed. “Hay sheds dot the landscape out here in the West,” says Logan. “It is essentially a roof held up on columns. The form of the SKI Dream House is defined by that, without being too literal.”

We asked Logan to design the SKI Dream House of the future. We gave him a carte blanche budget and expected a George Jetson-style fantasy, but Logan chose to design a house both beautiful and economical-a house for the growing number of year-round ski town residents who are building lives and families. Those people are, in Logan’s mind, the future of ski towns.

“What’s interesting to me is doing something more economically minded, something that fills a niche for reasonably affordable, deliberately designed living, which is a need here in Jackson and in many ski towns,” Logan says. “The stuff that’s available for the people who don’t have a Fortune 500 budget is pretty bad.”

Logan’s answer: a house with 1,800 square feet on the ground floor, 950 on the second, 700 square feet of decks and a 480-square-foot garage, all built in open, steel-framed bays. With careful choices in interior finishes and attention to costs, Logan thinks this building could be constructed in the Jackson Hole area for about $150 per square foot. (Example: He used exposed treatments that celebrate materials and connections within the building, rather than hiding them.)

The building is designed for a flat site on the belief that slopeside and downtown sites are too pricey in most resorts. It’s built slab-on-grade with in-floor radiant heat, a technology increasingly favored in cold communities (a basement could be incorporated, however).

The main entrance lies off-center on the south side of the structure, where the asymmetrical, oxidized metal roof sheds snow. This is also the side with the deepest overhang to shade the house in summer and prevent too much sun from entering in winter. Houses with extensive, unshaded glazing on the south can become overheated fishbowls on winter afternoons.

In addition, the roof cants to the south because the building’s views (in this case, of the Teton Range) are up and to the north. The roof is separated into two sections that shed snow on either side of the entry walkway, but not on it.The visitor passes beneath an inset, flat overhang that protects the front entry. Upon entering the foyer she stands in an open space that reaches up to the roof. Stairs to the second floor lie ahead; the public spaces of the house (kitchen and vaulted living-dining room) are to the left, or west. To the right are two smaller, single-story rooms that can serve as bedrooms or offices, plus a fourth room, situated against the east wall. This is the all-important gear room.

“The user is any kind of working person in a ski town,” Logan says. “These people typically live active lifestyles. Not only is there skiing in the winter; summertime use is a big item also-kayaking, biking, fishing, climbing.” The gear room is intentionally set beside a door that opens east out of the building onto the open space beside the garage, which forms a staging area for gear storage.

The vaulted living-dining area is focused by the kitchen on the east end and an off-center wood stove or fireplace in the northwestern corner. Large windows grant views to the north, west and south. A ground-level deck, partially protected by the overhanging roof, continues the floor out to the west and helps visually anchor the building to the site.

An office space or bedroom is drawn over the kitchen, but this is optional; the kitchen could simply remain open to the roof, or this room could be even larger. Or there does not have to be a room over the kitchen; the kitchen could simply remain open to the roof. A generous master bedroom with a private deck takes up the eastern portion of this floor. Shaded windows are set into the south wall. Three closets flank the master bath and stairwell, critical amenities for those people who own lots of outdoor clothing.

Logan has designed this house to be mutable and adaptable. “The notion of the typical big house as a box containing many rooms-the house that many of us grew up in-doesn’t really work these days,” says the Wyoming native. “Many people work at home, many people have kids. The shell needs to be flexible to handle the changing programmatic needs of the way people live.”

To accomplish this goal, Logan designed the house around an exposed steel frame of posts, beams and trusses built on an 8-foot grid plan along the east-west axis, a standardized building size. “Steel is actually a very green product,” he says. “It’s mostly recycled toasters and Volkswagens.” Prefabricated insulated panels or windows are then clipped, in effect, onto the steel frame.

The grid can be extended easily to the east or west if a homeowner desires more space. The building’s linear orientation is derived from this approach. “You get that effect when you repeat a grid over and over again,” Logan explains. “That’s also part of spreading out in the landscape to get views and good exposure. The building is not really deep, so I can get good light. That’s really important to me.”

To minimize construction costs and make expansion simpler, Logan employs a “saddlebag” design for the baths, stairways, closets, laundry and utility rooms on the north wall, as well as the fireplace on the west end and a built-in multi-media center on the south side. That is, rather than building the frame of the house and filling inward from the walls, he hangs these elements on the outside of the building’s skeleton and leaves the interior spaces open.

Logan recommends that the building’s external treatments be appropriate to the local vernacular. In Wyoming, for example, weathered cedar and oxidized metals create a novel yet rustic look to complement the hay shed-based form. “It’s dangerous to try to categorize buildings stylistically,” he says, “but in general terms this would be a building that defies conventional notions of what rustic is. People come up here and want to live like cowboys, and we end up with a lot of log buildings. This has simple form and it responds to the environment with the materials we put on it.”

Logan also celebrates materials inside. He likes connections and wants people to see and understand how the steel frame works. The concrete floor is finished with linseed oil (a budget alternative) or with a standard acid-based stain and commercial sealant. Cabinets are made of raw fiberboard and walls are exposed Masonite. “All these materials typically get covered up with something else,” Logan says. “But if you’re careful about how they go on, they can be really beautiful and cost-effective to use.”

For more information on this house or other Eric Logan designs, contact him in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at elogan@carneyarchitects.com or (307) 733-5546.

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