Located in the highly desirable Double Bar X Ranch, this 4.8-acre lot within an agricultural easement was treated with the utmost respect for the surrounding meadow. The house all but disappears into the adjacent landscape from the vantage point of passersby, achieved through an extensive vegetated roof system. Inspired by the client’s love of art and the sculptural design on the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery, the defining element of the landscape architecture is a raised grassy ‘embrace’, a meandering linear dance between man-made and natural, containing human activities within, while transitioning to the wild beyond. The whimsical berm, deliberately designed as functional land art to stage the client’s burgeoning sculpture collection, doubles as stormwater facilities in lieu of depressions. The incorporation of a reflecting pool and water cascades adjacent to the stairs enhance the serene tranquility of the home, as well as providing an additional reflective dynamic sculptural element. The unkempt “bad hair day” effect of the textured grass adds the final sculptural touch to the outdoor space of this unique residence.
Purpose & Approach to Project
Meadow House is a truly unique residence located in the Double Bar X Ranch subdivision in Aspen, Colorado. Situated on a 4.8-acre parcel above the Roaring Fork River with commanding views of Independence Pass and within an agricultural easement with strict limits to keep all improvements confined to the building and activity envelopes, this 12,000 square foot home is barely visible from the road. The multi-leveled home, with only a small footprint on the upmost level, features an extensive vegetated roof system over nearly half the home creating the perception that the primary dwelling is merely a simple cabin in a meadow.
The vision for the landscape design was very much influenced by the owner’s love of art and a desire to achieve the best and highest use of the limited space. The landscape architect achieved this through a juxtaposition of the strict rectilinear architectural forms and materials and manicured planters with native meadow-plant roofs and ‘messy’ plantings, transitioning to the natural environment beyond. Inspired by the sculptural design of the grounds at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh where the architect studied, the defining element of the landscape architecture is a raised grassy ‘embrace’, containing human activities within while transitioning to the untouched landscape beyond. The whimsical berm, which serves as functional land art and offers a grassy backdrop to the client’s growing sculpture collection, doubles as stormwater facilities in lieu of depressions.
Although the architecture of Meadow House is designed as a modern interpretation of the natural landscape, it features many cool, hard edges. The landscape architect desired a playful, intimate outdoor gathering space as an intentional counter to harmonize the rectilinear geometry of the residence. Purposefully conceived to blend in and simultaneously stand out, the design blurs the lines at the edges of the property to leave the majority of the site undisturbed, yet provides an inviting backdrop to ensure the client’s chosen art pieces ‘pop’. Additional goals included maintaining privacy in outdoor living spaces, integrating stormwater management as an asset to the design, rather than an afterthought, and ease of maintenance to ensure the integrity of the design into the future.
LA’s Role vs. Others
The landscape architect joined the Meadow House team after the architect had been selected by the client, at which point the architect already had the multi-leveled concept for the programming of the sloped site. The landscape architect worked with the architect and client to develop two iterative conceptual design options. The landscape architect prepared drawings to obtain approvals from the Double Bar X Architectural Review Committee and the City of Aspen Planning, Parks, Building and Engineering departments. Once a design option was chosen and approvals received, the landscape architect prepared construction-level documentation including materials and planting plans, as well as coordination of the efforts of all the landscape consultants including grading, garden roof installer, earth moving contractor, irrigation consultant, lighting designer, interior designer (outdoor furniture), sculptor’s representatives, and landscape contractor. The landscape architect was onsite frequently to oversee the landscape construction and verify the quality of the final product.
Special or Unique Elements
One of the true joys of residential design is the ability to play – play with materials, play with textures, play with ideas, and Meadow House is no exception, featuring numerous unique elements and features. The most significant of these is the quirky berm, deliberately designed as functional land art to stage the client’s burgeoning sculpture collection. Literally and figuratively mirrored in Danish sculptor Jeppe Hein’s creation Sine Curve 1, a series of human-height reflective panels arranged in a meandering formation, the grassy berm curves around the defined activity envelope like an ‘embrace’. Bisecting the berm on axis at the location of the hot tub allows the spa-goer a view to the mountains beyond, literally soaking in the scenery. Adding to the functional art, the landscape architect worked with sculptor Roger Hopkins out of California to create “The Avocado”, the affectionate name given to a 10-foot diameter granite fire feature carved from a boulder. A number of locally sourced Leadville Limestone Boulders grace the site relating back to the fire pit. Native plantings feather the hard lines of the architecture into the native environment, including a 6-8” deep extensive vegetated roof system. Catering to the owner’s love of the culinary arts in addition to the traditional, a rotating culinary herb wall was installed convenient to the kitchen. Equally as enamored of his dogs as food and art, the owner’s yard also includes a dog containment area affectionately known as “pug palace”. A cattle grate ingeniously serves as a vehicular ‘doormat’, helping to shed pebbles from automobile tires before entering the concrete autocourt. Finally, the incorporation of a reflecting pool and water cascades adjacent to the stairs enhances the natural tranquility of the home, while providing an additional reflective dynamic sculptural element.
Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability
The owner, architect, and landscape architect of Meadow House have the utmost respect for the surrounding meadow landscape and though they could not build a home without disturbing it, they could at least, in part, return a portion of it. Thanks to the vast vegetated roof system, the residence saves habitat for precious pollinators – birds, bees, and butterflies – who enjoy the native wildflowers, while simultaneously increasing the R-value of the home, a measure of insulating power, which far exceeds what could have been achieved through a traditional exposed membrane roof, thus reducing heating and cooling needs. No asphalt was used on this project, defaulting to gravel road base in those areas traditionally paved, further reducing the heat island effect and impervious surface area. For those zones requiring irrigation, the property relies on ditch water rather than drawing upon domestic water resources; this is true of the water features, such as the stairway waterfall, as well. Finally, the expressly specified Ecoloturf, a hybrid of fescues, already reduces the need for water by half as compared to a traditional Bluegrass lawn.
General significance of project
Meadow House stands apart from its contemporaries as an example of how a 12,000 square foot home can seamlessly integrate into the natural environment through careful siting and thoughtful collaboration. In harmony with its surroundings, Meadow House embraces the ranch aesthetic despite its contemporary materials. Meadow House is an oxymoron, far from big and ostentatious, this snug mansion reveals only a hint of its full splendor, enveloped in a textured blanket of nature with minimal visual impact, while maximizing the private experience of the home.
Quaking Aspen, Narrowleaf Cottonwood, Rocky Mountain Maple, Serviceberry, Mountain Mahogany, Scrub Oak, Colorado Blue Spruce
Rabbitbrush, Sagebrush, Wood’s Rose, Twinberry, Snowberry
Yarrow, Columbine, Fringed Sage, Flax, Rocky Mountain Iris, Alpine Aster, Beardtongue, Sneezeweed, Utah Goldmoss Stonecrop, Fleabane
Tufted Hairgrass, Timothy Grass, Predator Hard Fescue
Green Roof Seed Mix
Siberian Wallflower, Perennial Lupine, Sweet William Pinks, Blanketflower, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Blue Flax, Tall Blue Coneflower, Baby’s Breath, Alaskan Shasta Daisy, California Poppy, Mixed Corn Poppy, Purple Coneflower, Blue Columbine, Western Yarrow, Fleabane
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):