Landscape-Inspired Residence in Wyoming

by Eric Logan, AIA, principal, CLB

The beautiful Riverbend residence, designed by multidisciplinary architecture and design firm CLB, Jackson, Wyoming, is located on the east bank of the Snake River, adjacent to Grand Teton National Park.  The river, an integral part of Riverbend’s landscape-inspired architectural language, forms the north and west perimeter of an 18-acre wooded property that features dramatic, picturesque mountain views to the north through a veil of cottonwood trees.  A careful study of the relationship between the building envelope, river, and mountain views beyond, led the architects to elevate the main floor of the house 6’ above the natural ground plane to create a space that wholly honors its surroundings.  The result is a stunning design that engages with its riverine and mountain setting, fully embracing its natural environment, and that perfectly embodies CLB’s guiding design principle of being inspired by place. 

All photos courtesy of Matthew Millman

         Both the main and guest houses of Riverbend surround a south-facing deck and a bosquet of aspen trees.  Resting on bases of board-formed concrete, the volumes are defined by large, architectural overhangs that beautifully complement the wooded surroundings.  While simultaneously sheltering deep-set glazing, associated decks seamlessly unify the architecture, making the difference between indoor and outdoor almost indistinguishable.  The main house features a double-height glazed entry that projects toward the driveway approach, making the best use of the Rocky Mountain West’s famed natural light in both summer and winter.  Throughout the house, floor-to-ceiling windows let in an abundance of light that allows a true connection to nature and full access to sweeping views of the changing seasons and dramatic foliage in this rustic part of the country.  This is true everywhere, from the main living area to the bedrooms.  All areas of the home show an appreciation for the natural surroundings and seasonal attributes particular to the Wyoming region. 

         “Inspiration came from the materials, textures, and color palette of Wyoming’s landscape,” said Kevin Burke, AIA, LEED® AP, principal, CLB.  “The character of rusty pickup trucks, ranch buildings, and snow fences are captured through Riverbend’s design and materials.”

         On the river side, a protected deck runs the length of the house, rising to the second story on the east, providing a new vantage point to the lush landscape.  This multipurpose outdoor space serves as an extension of the living room, dining area, and kitchen, and provides easy access to the river via a series of platforms that descend to grade.  Riverbend residents can use this space to lounge with a glass of wine in summer, or to take a cozy moment with a blanket and mug of tea in autumn.  

         Riverbend’s material palette combines cedar and glazing wrapped in a plate steel shell, an organic companion to the woods and natural materials just outside.  The large expanses of cedar siding are interrupted with vertical cedar fins that add texture and shadows, which change throughout the day with the light and vary throughout the seasons, adding an interesting dimension to the experience of living at Riverbend.  Over time, the steel will develop a charming patina.  Ultimately, the building will exchange its black shell for a rusty one, further integrating into the site and becoming a cherished part of the landscape that it celebrates and calls home.  The formal language of Riverbend is distinguished by clean, modernist lines that stand in opposition to its organic surroundings, yet allow for the expansive windows that blend interior and exterior.  This tension sets a firm distinction between the natural and manmade elements of the site, seeking not to imitate its surroundings but to frame them. 

         The simplified, natural palette carries through to the home’s interior, where cedar walls and ceilings convey a homey, inviting warmth throughout.  Board-formed concrete masses anchor the entry and living spaces and bookend the open-plan living area, perfect for entertaining during ski season and beyond.  The concrete floor on the main level and contrasting beech flooring on the upper level complement the cedar and add an informal and comfortable feel to the expansively glazed spaces.  Lush fabrics offset the skillfully integrated woods expertly, and add to the overall feeling of warmth, while also providing an ideal backdrop for the views provided by the floor to ceiling windows throughout the space.  While texture and color reflecting the personality of the client are introduced in interior furnishings, the overall restraint of the architectural palette creates a built experience that has the feel of a quiet platform set amidst the trees, and one that will stand the test of time as much as its mountain neighbors. 

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