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A Home Atop a Mountain

Showing Monumentality Can Fit with Cozy Intimacy

MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

A Home Atop a Mountain
By Diana Carta -

This detached house designed by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects is located on one of the highest snow-covered peaks of America’s western mountain range. It comprises just a few interconnected geometric components: a central 30-m-long elliptical volume resting on a concrete rectangular podium and steel columns, and a large entrance linking the house to a steel entrance walkway at the rear. The aerodynamic shape of the central tube seems molded by the winds – among the strongest in North America. An elongated volume, it allows optimal use of interior space in compliance with local urban regulations. Raised from the ground, it appears to “float” in the air. On a more practical note, its raised position stops the building from being buried under the heavy winter snows that can be as high as 9 m; it also allows the residence to align effortlessly with the 30% site slope.

The approach to the house is from the road above it, with views over the curved roof to the mountains beyond; access inside is via an uncovered steel bridge leading to the entrance volume where a transparent skylit staircase goes down to the foyer below, the true center of the house.

The ribbon windows of the 26-m long living area frame sweeping views of mountain range and sky. Interior spatial distribution proceeds initially downwards, on entering the house, and then extends horizontally in the long living area, allowing constant views of the rugged landscape all around. The result is architecture that succeeds in harnessing the spectacular beauty of its context. A continuous “window-seat” runs under the long transparent wall. A key feature reinforcing the building’s horizontality, it forms a trait-d’union between interior and exterior. In fact, the entire elliptical environment exudes a strong sense of enveloping space but at the same time seeming to extend outward into the landscape, an invitingly cozy domestic space...

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