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Mountain Glass and Steel Home Designed Around Glacial Erratic Rock

Set in the northern portion of a glacial valley near Studhorse Ridge and Pearygin Lake in Winthrop, Washington, the Studhorse house by Olson Kundig Architects is a four building design which focuses on a natural feature – a large Glacial Erratic rock resting quietly between the outdoor bar and fire pit.


While the home was designed around the Glacial Erratic, it was also designed for the extreme weather changes from summer’s high desert temperatures to winter’s frigid and snowy climate, allowing the homeowners to take advantage of four season outdoor activities.


Studhorse is on a 20 acre site and its four building design abstractly references the history of the valley when horse drawn wagons would circle from building to building.


The four small detached buildings were carefully scattered around the Glacial Erratic that now sits on a central courtyard.


The structures have been purposefully arranged to take advantage of the panoramic views of the Studhorse Ridge and Pearrygin Lake.


With the four-season weather, the views are an ever-changing story of climate extremes.


While horse drawn carriages may no longer be the mode of transportation, the design also allows for modern day vehicles to move freely around the courtyard.


The home also features a swimming pool set into the courtyard just around the corner from the bar and firepit.


The swimming pool is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer’s day.


In the winter the pool has a heated deck to keep it clear of snow.


The living room, dining and kitchen are in one building, the master suite, children’s bedroom and den are more secluded in another building and the guest rooms are in a third slightly removed structure while a sauna sits well off to the side, away from the courtyard.


While the social and private structures are on either side of the Glacial Erratic, large roof overhangs keep the area sheltered.


The materials used on the facade of the structures where chosen to withstand the hot, fire prone summers and snowy winters and are therefore mostly steel and glass.


An outdoor TV under the overhang can pivot outward and rotate to face either left or right.


Wood salvaged from an old barn in the valley was salvaged and upcycled as wood siding in each of the four buildings and is featured on both the outdoor and indoor bar which are back to back.


Using the barn wood both inside and outdoors helps blur the boundaries between the two zones.


The family room and dining room are wrapped in glass except for the vertical swath of the fireplace.


The wood-burning fireplace is constructed from concrete and has a safety glass panel that slides on wheels to open or close the unit.


With the fire going and views of the winter snow, the room has a surreal sense of comfortable camping under a tent.


The living, dining and kitchen areas are designed in a line to take advantage of the views and in the summer the walls of glazings can be opened wide to take advantage of outdoor living and dissipate the heat.


The bathroom is a study in white with the shower positioned in front of the window.


Olson Kundig

Photography © Benamin Schneider

A home that can make you feel so integrated into the outdoors that you feel like you are camping is usually, as in this case, the result of lots of glass but sometimes other structural features can do the trick, like designing a timber vacation house to look like a cluster of teepees.


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