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Awards Category

Residential Architecture - Built

Project Summary

Lookout is a full-time family residence wedged into a hillside at the base of a three-million-year old volcano. It is now inscribed with ski turns that reach the property. A ground form of insulated concrete walls is inhabited by a framework sheathed in perforated steel rain screens. The roof parallels the slope of the hill and acknowledges both the mountain and valley below.

Project Narrative

The site is layered with geologic history and situated at the base of a three-million-year-old volcano, known as Lookout Mountain, which is inscribed with ski runs that continue along the site. Consisting of volcanic sediment from ancient flows and strewn with boulders up to 15 feet in diameter, the site is inhabited by a stand of second-growth pine and fir trees. Winter snow can reach 700 inches per year and temperatures vary seasonally from -25 F to +90 F. A fire-resistive, zero-maintenance form grows from the hillside as a low-slung composition of insulated and doubled concrete walls, perforated steel rain screens, and 1/4” plate steel roofs. The building envelope inhabits the slope with equal parts prospect and refuge at 6,200 feet above sea level. The half earth-sheltered three-story house is organized along a narrow slot of access that mirrors the ski run and connects independently zoned territories within the house. Beginning with an excavated entry level, movement passes through glass the color of cooling magma, then up through a second public level that opens through the plan from north to south. The roof follows the slope, directing the eye up the mountain and down the valley. Retaining walls reach into the landscape, stopping short to allow the grade to pour into the terrace. Sleeping areas are hidden behind acoustically detailed and orchard-sourced walnut screens that sheathe floors, walls, and ceilings. “My wife and I are a bit different in the way we live - I am an extreme extrovert and she is a bit more introverted. The house is also a bit of both personalities. We can hide out and get total privacy if needed or open the windows and expose decks and balconies and literally almost touch the trees since we are 38 feet in the air on the master third level. Our style of living is to be together as a family as much as possible and the huge open living concept with kitchen and living room makes this possible. […] The personality of the home or its story to us is that until you experience the feelings of being and living inside you can’t fully gather all the emotions and hidden gem moments this home offers. A red glass front door that extends 35 feet washes various parts of the home with red light, drawing interest and curiosity. The concrete juxtaposed with wood and steel is powerful, but the perfectly placed windows and open spaces make you feel like everything is in the right place. The house is maybe misunderstood at first glance but like any interesting complex person as you dive a little deeper you realize the immense beauty and depth is intriguing and then after spending lots of time you fall in love or at least come to understand and admire such an incredible home which we feel is like a living work of art that our kids can play and enjoy as they grow up surrounded by nature.” - Client

Sustainable Design & Materials

Basalt floors continue the raw materiality of the boulders on site and an arrival ski slope leads directly into the house. Excavations were performed by hand where required to protect trees close to the house. Sustainability design integration is focused on energy retention, with mass-heavy concrete walls, radiantly heated basalt floors, super insulated roof, enhanced glazing, and high-efficiency mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems. The mass heavy house stores the scarce sun energy filtered through the forest. Full-height openings with structurally glazed sliding doors open the space to prevailing breezes. The form envelops the continuous space on the slope; this repetition of spatial behavior and native materiality connects the built space with the landscape that existed long before.

Project Stats

Square Feet


Green Building Designation(s)

Date of Completion

November 2018

Project Location

9519 Wawona, Truckee, CA 96161, USA

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