The Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada feature a host of contemporary houses that draw both from modernist architecture and their unique surroundings. John Gendall selects eight examples from his book Rocky Mountain Modern.
Gendall grew up in the Rocky Mountains, known colloquially as the Rockies, and his recently published book covers a variety of homes built in a style known as Rocky Mountain modernism – a loose designation describing residences influenced by the modern architecture movement and the mountainous geography of the region.
While modernism has always had roots in the Rockies – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s first US commission was in Wyoming – the style has since evolved in tandem with the unique environmental conditions of the region.
“An artful response to what can be extreme conditions”
“In form and materiality, [Rocky Mountain modernism] draws from vernacular building, learning from the cabins and ranch sheds that predated modernism,” Gendall told Dezeen.
“In a place with an intense climate, Rocky Mountain modernism is more than a style – it is an artful response to what can be extreme conditions.”
When putting together the examples in his book, Gendall said he wanted to show the diversity of the environments in the region.
“Even though the geography is linked by a name – the Rocky Mountains – the environment is remarkably diverse,” he said.
“There are the rugged peaks that are the typical emblems of the region, of course, but there are also high deserts, lush valleys, rolling foothills and sweeping plains.”
Modern architecture can address “design challenges” of the region
To mark this diversity, Gendall has selected projects that stretch from Golden, New Mexico, in the American Southwest up to Golden, British Columbia, in Canada.
The contemporary focus of the book shows the continued relevance of the style and how it responds to pressing environmental concerns and changes.
“Not only are there many talented designers working in the region, but the types of challenges the region faces – land and water conservation, habitat preservation, energy management and environmental sustainability – are design challenges that modern architecture can address,” he said.
Read on for Gendall’s picks of Rocky Mountain modern homes that exemplify the contemporary iterations of the style.
Steel House by VJAA, Colorado
The house itself is but one element of a project that saw a large-scale landscape remediation of a former cattle ranch, setting the stage for a house that produces 100 per cent of its energy and that provides stunning views of a Colorado alpine valley.
For this ensemble of cabins overlooking Colorado’s Platte Valley, Renée del Gaudio drew from her longtime study of the region’s vernacular architecture.
Perched high in the Wyoming Rockies, near Grand Teton National Park, this house melds influences from 19th century Rocky Mountain vernacular cabins with European chalets.
Berlin-based firm Barkow Leibinger used timber throughout this courtyard house in Montana, where firm principal Frank Barkow grew up.
Blur House by Studio B, Colorado
In Boulder, this house designed by a local firm sits on a ridge that looks to the Colorado Rockies to its west and the vast plains to its east.
Sun Valley House by Allied Works, Idaho
An early work by Allied Works founder Brad Cloepfil, this house in Idaho creates apertures with concrete forms, a strategy he first explored in his early art practice.
Boundary Point Cabin by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, British Columbia
One of several Canadian projects include in the book, this cabin provides a getaway on Christina Lake, near the US/Canada border.
A series of cabins in Utah’s Wasatch Range, these structures help create a community in an area subject to intense weather and abundant snowfall.
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