An entire glass wall swings upward to open this spacious retreat to the landscape of the American West – one of several inventive features incorporated by US firm Olson Kundig.
The Bigwood Residence is tucked into a hillside in Sun Valley, a resort town in Idaho. Encompassing 6,500 square feet (604 square metres), the two-storey vacation home offers sweeping views of natural landmarks such as Bald Mountain, Griffin Butte and Adams Gulch.
The house is composed of two cantilevering bars made of glass and steel, which project toward the landscape. One bar serves as the main dwelling, while the other contains guest quarters.
The rectilinear volumes sit atop a board-formed concrete base, and are connected by a steel-and-glass bridge that contains a sitting area. Concrete masts that support the bars also act as fireplaces.
Olson Kundig – a Seattle-based studio known for its portfolio of rustic, modern dwellings – incorporated a number of clever hardware systems into the building. "This second home is full of surprises, from its humble-to-grand design progression to its myriad custom details," said the firm.
The bridge volume features a 23-foot-wide (seven-metre) glass wall that lifts up, enabling the space to be fully open to the outdoors. The wall is operated via a hand crank and is counterbalanced by a large, steel weight that rises five feet (1.5 metres) above the roof.
Other bespoke pieces include a 14-foot-long (four-metre) black walnut dining table with wheeled legs, enabling it to be split in half. The lighting above the table can also be transformed. Overhead, a pulley and solid steel counterweight raise two custom light fixtures to further open up the space," the team said.
In the great room, the fireplace screen slides open and closes via steel rollers. Lining one wall is a custom casework that appears to float above the floor. "The casework is actually anchored to the wall several inches above the floor, a subtle nuance that serves to both underscore the buoyancy of the home and retain its openness," Olson Kundig said.
Providing a strong connection to the surrounding environment was a guiding concern for the architects. "The outdoors is welcomed in at nearly every turn, with expansive windows and wide-swinging doors that celebrate the interior/exterior connection," the studio said.
In a sewing room on the ground level, "eroding corner" glass doors pivot open and provide a seamless connection to an intimate courtyard. An overhanging metal roof helps shade the glazed walls, as do exterior metal blinds.
"Painted metal shades shield the structure's windows on the exterior, allowing the homeowners to secure the home when it's not in use," the team said. "The shades also contribute to the home's energy efficiency and provide privacy."
Inside, the residence features earthy materials and a neutral colour palette. Walls, ceilings and floors are sheathed in wood, lending a sense of warmth to the space. Rooms are fitted with modern decor, from leather sofas to metal benches.
Other projects by Olson Kundig includes Studhorse, a rural retreat clad in weathering steel, and Sol Duc Cabin, a "virtually indestructible" steel dwelling that sits atop stilts. The firm's cofounder Tom Kundig also launched his own hardware line in 2012, which includes drawer pulls, door handles and fire pokers.
Architect: Olson Kundig
Design team: Tom Kundig (design principal); Edward Lalonde (project manager); Jamie Slagel (project architect); Chris Gerrick (staff)
Structural engineer: MCE Structural Consultants
Civil engineer: Benchmark Associates
General contractor: Schuchart/Dow
Landscape architect: Ben Young Landscape Architect
Lighting: Lighting Design
Door engineer: Turner Exhibits (custom large pivot door, custom large sliding door)
Fabricators: Taylor Made Woodworks (built-in cabinets, beds, speciality furniture pieces); Sun Valley Bronze (door hardware, counter-weighted pendant light); Mountain Modern (custom doors); JG Works (garage doors, TV arm, faucet, tub filler, large-scale speciality metal)