Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Project Features
As a private residence we addressed accessibilities for entrance areas and walking paths, but since the project has no public component, the other factors were not evaluated as rigorously.
Set prominently in downtown Aspen, Colorado, this 4-acre residential project nestles into an existing mature conifer grove overlooking the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve, with distant views of Aspen’s ski slopes and surrounding mountain peaks. The design team took great care in acknowledging the property’s rich historical ties to the prominent Paepcke family and former location of the Given Institute. The project’s objective is to comprehensively understand and deeply respect the larger-scale environmental factors. Prior to embarking on the design process, significant effort was dedicated to thorough site analysis. This meticulous approach ensures a comprehensive understanding of the site’s unique characteristics and allows for the development of a design that harmonizes with and respects the surrounding environment. From the beginning, the highest emphasis was placed on preservation of the existing mature trees and this intention was successfully carried through nearly eight years, design to completion.
This meticulous residential design in Aspen represents the largest residential project the town had witnessed to date. Sitting on 4 acres, at an elevation of 8,800 feet in the heart of downtown Aspen, it holds immense significance due to its location and unique environmental factors. The site is adjacent to the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which demanded a design approach that embraced environmental sensitivity and harmonized with the surrounding context. With tens of millions invested in construction over eight years, the project’s attention to detail, historical context, and sensitivity to the site’s natural beauty set the stage for a remarkable achievement.
The landscape architect played a pivotal role in envisioning, developing, and implementing the project, with close collaboration between the architect, client, and contractor. One of the greatest design challenges was navigating Aspen’s complicated regulatory environment, with initial permit approvals taking two years. The landscape architect navigated the regulatory system, working closely with the architect to create a design that instilled a sense of respect, artistry, and ecological sensitivity. Preservation of existing trees and significant vegetation was of paramount importance, requiring careful planning and monitoring.
Strict Hallam Lake Bluff setback requirements excluded mechanical equipment from accessing the outer bluff portions of the property, opposite of the tree constraints, requiring complicated construction strategies. The landscape architect’s involvement extended beyond design to include extensive construction administration, collaborating with the client on a weekly basis to address challenges and make real-time adjustments.
Historic + Cultural + Natural Context:
The site features a distinctive grove of mature conifers, including the largest White Fir in the City. Treating the existing trees as both an opportunity and constraint, a stewardship approach was taken to not only protect but improve the health of these magnificent trees. From the early stages, critical root zones were fenced off, significantly limiting construction equipment access and a robust tree health monitoring program was implemented.
Extensive efforts were made to understand the existing solar, wind, and wildlife movement patterns; with osprey, deer, and bear frequenting the site. The early site analysis recognized that there were several uniquely distinctive geometric relationships between existing features, with three triangularly arranged Fir, Pine, and Cottonwood trees forming the basis for the overall site organization.
The artful diagrams that emerged generated many imaginative conversations with the owners about what the site could become; deeply connected to the surrounding context, with a sense of familiarity tied to the previous site conditions.
Working collaboratively with the architect from the very beginning, meticulous care was invested to prepare a richly detailed design that prominently carried forward the fundamental guiding principles.
Nodes of the Site:
The interconnected design was woven throughout various nodes of the property. Each element was carefully considered to create a cohesive and harmonious landscape experience.
Zen Garden, Back Lawn, and Rock Symmetry
From the earliest concept sketch studies, the arrangement of 15 multi-ton lichen-covered boulders was fundamental to the overall garden composition, inspired by the tranquil Kyoto gardens. Their placement was a collaborative effort with the architect team, carefully orienting their preferred position to maximized effect. Nearly a year of careful thinking went into sourcing a suitable granite boulder type that was harmonious with the site character while being harvested from a disturbed location elsewhere within Colorado. The boulder selection/placement was precise within inches, ensuring integration with the overall design.
A 180-foot tower crane was necessary to avoid activity within existing no-access tree protection zones which prohibited on-surface equipment operation. Taking a hands-on approach, the designers worked collaboratively with a team of hand tool-equipped installers while 50 large screening trees were carefully craned into position along the sensitive south-east bluff edge; a spectacle to behold.
The curvilinear design of the recessed fire lounge space required careful navigation of the City code restrictions and Hallam Lake Bluff setback boundary. All steps and furniture are custom designed to be “portable”, avoiding classification as deck, which counts against the allowable floor area limits. Before settling on a final design, a full-scale mockup was constructed allowing the owners to test out the proportion and feel, stimulating useful feedback that guided the final outcome.
Complicated forms with back tilt, radius bends, and varying top of wall elevations were achieved utilizing a CNC-molded pre-fabrication approach. Thinly hollow concrete wall forms are attached to a steel sub-structure, with a surface color and texture that closely resembles the adjacent granite paving materials.
Shaded Guest House Pathway
Taking advantage of the sheltered environment beneath the existing spruce trees, a shade-loving woodland garden was designed, offering many unique plant species to observe along the guest house pathway.
With the limited water resources in mind, drought-tolerant species are prominently featured throughout the garden, arranged in bold, layered massings with colorful interest on display throughout the season. Being conscientious of a changing climate, a hydrozone map was produced demonstrating that irrigation water efficiency would meet or exceed the strict standard required in Aspen.
A raised vegetable garden with a custom willow trellis and a recommended 6-year crop rotation specific to the local climate were implemented, ensuring the site’s ecological resilience.
Initially planned to be a permeable snow-melted paving system, the custom granite stone paving pattern with stone curbs was carefully designed with a discrete system of low-profile slot drains integrated within the herringbone pattern, barely visible to the most observant visitor.
The pool is constructed entirely above structure, with the surrounding deck utilizing a pedestal paver system. Stormwater drains through gaps in the material and is captured and redirected below grade to a nearby stormwater planter, allowing for a level deck surface.
Artistry + Lighting
The owners are avid art collectors and supporters of the Aspen Art Museum. Numerous sculptural installations are featured throughout the landscape in locations carefully planned from the early stages of design. One existing cottonwood tree that was initially in a state of declining health was eventually lost, with its prominent focal location becoming the host of a showy vertical art piece.
Inspired by traditional Japanese garden lanterns, an artistic abstraction of this garden element was provided in the form of several colored glass cubes arranged in an intentional manner along a stepping stone path. Blown into a box mold form, these custom-illuminated art elements provide a subtle glowing effect within the Zen garden at dusk. Working through fabrication challenges, these artistic dots of color add an exciting element of discovery to the space.
The protection of existing trees influenced the overall design approach. Implementing exploratory air spading techniques and establishing no-construction boundaries along tree canopy drip lines ensured the preservation of critical roots during excavation. This stewardship approach contributed to the improved health and well-being of the trees, leaving them in a better condition.
With sustainability at the forefront, the project incorporated innovative stormwater management strategies. Surface stormwater was effectively captured, filtered, and reintroduced to the ground through curvilinear, Corten steel-edged infiltration basins. These functional elements were integrated into the design, blending seamlessly with the surrounding landscape while respecting the existing tree root systems.
The project stands as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of landscape architecture. With meticulous attention to detail, historical context, and environmental sensitivity, the landscape architect crafted and implemented a design that seamlessly blends art, sustainability, and the site’s natural surroundings. Navigating Aspen’s challenging regulatory environment, the landscape architect overcame obstacles and delivered exceptional outcomes, showcasing the profession’s ability to create spaces that inspire and endure. This home exemplifies the harmonious integration of architecture and landscape, preserving existing trees and embracing the heritage of the site. Through its sensitive design, this residence serves as a shining example of sustainable mountain resort town living, where aesthetics and environmental responsibility unite to create a truly exceptional living space.
- Bailey Compact Amur Maple
- Gray Gleam Juniper
- Moonglow Juniper
- Spring Snow Crab Apple
- Bristlecone Pine
- Ponderosa Pine
- Quaking Aspen
- Feather Reed Grass
- Arctic Fire Dogwood
- Peking Cotoneaster
- Tufted Hair Grass
- Blue Oat Grass
- Little Lime Hydrangea
- Blue Switch Grass
- Mugo Pine
- Autumn Jazz Viburnum
- Anise Hyssop
- Lady’s Mantle
- False Spiraea
- Rhineland Astible
- Common Lady Fern
- Siberian Bugloss
- Globe Thistle
- Sweet Woodruff
- Plantain Lily
- Creeping Jenny
- Walkers Low Catmint
- Irish Moss
- Cardonna Perennial Salvia
- May Night Sage
- Snow Hill Meadow Sage
- Sunsparkler Dazzleberry Stonecrop
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):