Perched at 2, 470 metres on the side of a mountain in Montana’s Madison Range, the massing and materials of this house are sourced from the powerful landscape – as is its mood. The exterior of the house is a composition of Cor-ten steel and board-formed concrete materials, which metaphorically and directly embrace the harsh realities of the site and its immediate environment.
The 567-square-metre residence is organised by two massive 45-centimetre-thick, perpendicular, board-formed concrete walls which cleave the house and extend into the landscape to the north and south. ‘The first wall runs north/south and leads one into the house to direct views of Pioneer Peak,’ notes architect Stuart Silk. ‘The second is faceted in four directions towards a tall narrow window providing peak-a-boo views from the living room in the otherwise windowless wall.’
Approached alongside the wall, we’re led to the entrance’s large steel pivot door. The wall persists through the house and extends to the living room, where it emphasises the view across a timbered valley directly toward the 2,987-metre summit of Pioneer Mountain – and the sky itself.
The use of Cor-ten helps merge the home with the rocky soil, becoming an outgrowth of its site. A second 1, 2-metre-thick concrete wall runs perpendicularly to the first wall and features faceted planes that angle towards a tall, narrow window into the stairway and living room. The facets recall those found in the rocks on the site.
‘The site’s rocky alpine terrain,’ says Silk, ‘provided the inspiration for this home and led us to choosing board-formed concrete and Cor-ten steel as the principal exterior materials. These elemental materials best captured this site’s essential characteristics. I saw the house like a barnacle clinging steadfastly to its precarious perch.’
Entry is at the upper floor of this two-storey home. The principal spaces include the 4,6-metre-tall living room which is flanked by two 3,35-metre-tall volumes containing the kitchen/dining room to the west and the master bedroom suite to the east.
The lower floor holds the entertainment room, three guest suites, and a bunk room. To maintain privacy, the home is nearly opaque on the entry side of the building except for a tall, narrow slot of glass in the faceted concrete and a two-sided projecting corner window that provides views to the north and east from the master bathroom. The two different ceiling heights modulate the composition and are a subliminal reminder of the hierarchical structure of the surrounding mountains.
The interior palette of materials is minimal and focused on natural materials and finishes. ‘This project was a rare opportunity to work with a client who has a keen eye for design and detail,’ notes interior designer Julianne Shaw. ‘My goal was to create spaces specialised to the owners. We accomplished this by bringing the Montana landscape colours into the interiors, using natural stone throughout, and adding refined furniture, luxurious fabrics, and silk area rugs into their spaces. The addition of custom art glass lighting and feature windows created the final sparkle.’
At each level, a cedar slatted ceiling is supported above the monolithic concrete floor. Structural steel columns are left exposed in the living room. Blackened-steel panels delineate apertures in the thick walls. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow unobstructed views of the dramatic alpine landscape and sky, while a continuous band of clerestory windows in the living room allows balanced light to penetrate the home from four sides. Two sculptural-steel elements – the oversized 3,65-metre-tall pivot door at the entrance, and a 8-centimetre-thick, 7-metre-long stair railing – are punctuated with arrays of square, glass-filled holes, reminiscent of stars in the night sky.
Stuart Silk Architects project team: Stuart Silk; Julianne Shaw; Kim Pham
architecture: Stuart Silk Architects | interiors: Stuart Silk Architects Decorative | steel fabrication: Brandner Design, Inc. | custom glass design: Scott Chico Raskey | lighting design: Brian Hood Lighting Design | construction: Charter Construction | photography: Aaron Leitz (spring views); Whitney Kamman (winter views)