Resting quietly beneath the shadows of the majestic Tetons and near the braided channels of the mighty Snake River, Bar B Bar Ranch successfully transitions a modern architectural home into its surrounding context through poetic yet restrained interventions.
The design – a minimalist plan influenced by a couple’s shared appreciation modern design – artfully weaves together living and equestrian program elements into a refreshing vision of holistic mountain ranch design. Outdoor living spaces merge almost imperceptibly with the meadow, imbuing the home with a sense of peace, permanence, and resilience. Together with a restorative hand, the design brings native plant ecologies into the design, elevating the natural qualities of the working land along its riparian zones.
A Landscape of Regional Significance
Located just north of the mountain town of Jackson, and bound by the braided channels of the mighty Snake River, the historic 800-acre Bar B Bar Ranch remains a vestige of Teton Valley’s rich and important agricultural history. Defined by a transect of diverse landscapes – rolling moraines, grassy meadows, mature forests, riparian lands, and active irrigation ditches – its picturesque land, restored with conservation minded planning management with preserved remnants of its agricultural past, embodies the spirit of the American West frontier and the dream of living in a National Park.
Resting within a wildlife migratory corridor that connects the Snake River floodplain with the nearby Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge and ultimately the Bridger Teton National Forest, the land also holds extraordinary environmental value to the region. The property –– which includes some of the highest valued habitat land under Teton County’s Natural Resource Overlay –– provides critical migratory and forage value to the valley’s notable wildlife, including elk, moose, deer, bald eagles, the great gray owl, blue heron, and the greater sage-grouse.
Realizing a Conservation Based Plan
In the early 2000s, and under the goal of preserving the land’s scenic and natural attributes in perpetuity, the ranch transitioned into a conservation-focused plan including 19 homesites. Because of the land’s high scenic and habitat value, over 500 acres of conservation easements with additional envelopes and development restrictions ensure any future improvements prioritize the valley’s seasonal wildlife migratory.
The ranch’s original homestead would be designated as one homesite – a 35-acre property limited to a 2.5 acres development envelope. Located within a grassy meadow and at the threshold of the cottonwood forest, this location provided both a protected area for settlement and direct access to productive pastureland while avoiding seasonal fluctuations of the dynamic Snake. The design process utilized historical photography to survey the patterns, uses and evolution of the homestead and its agricultural barns, outbuildings, pens, paddocks and working pastures.
Understanding the Vision
Inspired by the opportunity to become the next stewards of this land, a couple embarked upon a planning and design process to realize their life-long shared goals of creating a small equestrian ranch. Initial conversations between the design team and client – retirees from the creative video industry – revealed a desire to create a dynamic modern home, defined by artful simplicity, unwavering restraint, and timeless materials that would fall subservient to its sublime setting. With an eye toward preserving the site’s natural features, the landscape architect and architect worked in tandem to create a design whose imprint would be light on the land and fully vested in the future of the surrounding environment.
Resting against the existing cottonwood forest, the designated building envelope presented a dilemma – a location where improvements would blend into a protected and forested backdrop, but one where much of the envelope possesses limited views of the western mountain range and its most iconic peak – Grand Teton. This dichotomy led to the placement of the home’s program at the southeastern portion of the envelope, enabling nearly 270-degree panoramic mountain views from the home’s first floor, while a limited second-story program rises from the meadow and opens to majestic views of the distant horizon. Collaborating with an equestrian specialist, the team organized the horse barn and functional equestrian program to the west of the home, visually grounding improvements to the existing cottonwood forest. Together, architecture and landscape interventions edit views to the working parts of the ranch upon arrival, offer direct access to the property’s expansive hay meadows, and provide a shelterbelt from strong southernly winter winds.
To limit disturbance, the proposed driveway enters the property at the same point of historical development, its alignment quickly disappearing behind natural clusters of mature and introduced spruce trees, later following the edge of forest and pastureland, leaving meadows intact and active. Along one’s drive, views to historical barns and stone wall relics are choreographed. Oriented upon the property’s horse barn, the drive turns east and orients itself upon the entry of the home, and a distant peak. Constructed of loose permeable gravel, the entry experience communicates the spirit of simple country roads. Along the entry walk, a perennial planting runner greets visitors, an ever-changing display of the valley’s native perennials.
Synthesis of Landscape + Architecture
The home, crisply executed through a nocturnal palette of dark wood, purposefully disappears into the surrounding cottonwood forest; its roofline slowly rising from the meadow and towards views of the Tetons. With the ethos of modernity, the home and auxiliary horse barn is collectively planned with simplicity, efficiency, and functionality in mind. Stitching the home and barn together, a rectilinear central court provides a shared vehicular access, limiting overall development footprint. Anchoring the northern edge of the court, a linear concrete horse trough frames the adjacent paddocks and provides guests to engage with the ranch’s horses. Working in close collaboration with an equestrian expert, the design of the horse facilities – the paddocks, pens, hitching rail, materials, and fencing program – keeps the health and well-being of the horses at the forefront.
Sustainability Defines Function
Microclimate studies revealed opposing information related to wind protection and solar access, and to where the most advantageous spaces would be for gathering and entertainment. Ultimately, the more public spaces of the home – and associated outdoor spaces – would be focused along the southern end of the home to allow for uninterrupted view and access to natural light from morning to evening. However, this would require the Landscape Architect to harness strong prevailing winds coming from the southwest. Freestanding walls, grade transitions, and vegetative windbreaks provide protection from the elements and extend the use of the garden into the shoulder season. A narrow slot in the concrete wall introduces the opportunity for the sound of falling water to permeate the gathering space.
Reviving Native Plant Communities
While the western edge of the property is bound by aspen and cottonwood forests, most of the property is defined by active grassland pastures, with pockets of willow riparian shrubland, and active ditches that bring water to the flats. Recognizing that any structure within this predominantly horizontal landscape could visually disturb its scenic context, the design preserves and quietly build upon the existing landscape patterns and vegetative communities to screen the home from adjacent lands. Along creek and drainage corridors, introduced plantings of narrowleaf cottonwood and native willows offer a natural vegetation veil, while also providing habitat forage and cover, and allowing permeability that accommodates wildlife movement.
- Quaking Aspen
- Colorado Blue Spruce
- Sweet Woodruff
- Purple Coneflower
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):