Surrounded by steep, rugged slopes, Highlands Retreat represents a family refuge set within the protective canopy of a mature aspen forest. The property and its seasonal changes, filtered sunlight, and natural systems highly influenced the landscape architect’s approach to site planning and design. A complex ecosystem of rich, organic soils teeming with grasses, forbs, and wildflowers sets the stage for a carefully crafted and environmentally sensitive design, one that proffers both a sense of adventure and peace.
The team began by exploring synergistic relationships between landscape, architecture and interiors, utilizing natural land openings, axial connections, and distant views to create a modern interpretation of a traditional Western homestead. While rigorous analysis provided a thorough understanding of the macro-level site conditions, ground-truthing over several months revealed how light and shadow, snow and wind patterns, and micro-climate temperatures would influence livability.
From the outset, the landscape architect held tight to the commitment of protecting the immersive forested setting. However, despite its mature vegetation, the land had witnessed decades of deferred maintenance. Many trees were reaching their maturity, while fallen dead saturated the forest floor, stunting succession. To align to the restorative power of natural wildfires, designers specified an aggressive clearing of deadfall and invasive species, allowing filtered sunlight to reach the forest floor.
Inherent in the design is the cultivation of a very simple yet sophisticated indoor-outdoor living experience for the family and their guests. Outdoor spaces weave into the forest and meadows, giving the home a sense of permanence and enduring character. The planting design reflects its high-altitude environment with context-sensitive and sustainable strategies that re-establish indigenous plant communities and enhanced wildlife habitats. Collectively, sensitive development strategies enable the home to quietly rest within its natural setting, achieves an immediate permanence during all seasons and provides a remarkable retreat.