LocationBoulder, United States
Text description provided by the architects. The Sunshine Canyon Residence was, in a way, created by the Fourmile Canyon Fire of 2010. The owners, who lost their home in that fire, wanted to rebuild near their original home site. Embracing the beauty of the burned landscape, they chose a steeply sloped southern facing site, also burned by Fourmile fire.
Following a long period of intensive mining exploration, the new site sat untouched for years prior to the fire. Abandoned mine shafts, rusted steel mining structures and car tracks, and mounds of mine tailings are scattered near the site. Directly below the home site lies a test pit for a mine that was never completed. Until the fire, these remnants were increasingly faint. The fire exposed this rich history as well as the sculptural granite that forms the site.
The home responds to this dramatic site through a simple form – juxtaposed to the landscape while inspired by the fragmented granite boulders and mining equipment. A simple bar hovers above the slope, angled at the ends to address distant views and accept entry from the road, and shifted to allow views and movement through a breezeway at one end. The form is supported on slender steel columns and simple concrete shear walls, minimizing the impact of construction on the site while allowing the slope to flow under the house without interruption. In this way, the house preserves the landscape as it was found and intensifies the reading of the slope – allowing the mine pit and the boulders along the ridgeline to remain untouched.
Most of the glazing faces due south to maximize solar gain in a climate dominated by the need for heat, but blessed with a yearly abundance of sunshine. The south side has a deep overhang adjusted to welcome the sun in winter months while completely shading the interior on hot summer days. Consistent and efficient heating is powered by a geothermal heat pump drilled into the granite mountainside, and is coupled with a concrete floor to absorb energy from the sun. Spray foam insulation creates an airtight envelope, and an eight KW ground-mounted PV array supplies enough power to nearly offset all electricity use.
Materials were selected for their economy, function, beauty, and connection to the history of the site. The exterior is clad in the most economical and durable material possible, the same rusty corrugated steel as the nearby mine structures’ cladding. Exterior decks and walls are covered with untreated Ipe, which will weather to a medium-grey color reminiscent of the weathered trunks of the burned trees surrounding the site. On the interior, all casework is clear vertical grain fir, reminiscent of the un-weathered interiors of the trees. The interior walls are pure white to capture the constantly changing colors of daylight against the landscape, and to create a seamless transition from inside to out.