Fitting a home to the landscape and community
photos by karl neumann
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Before Jackson architect Brad Hoyt was hired to design a home for Maria and Worthy Johnson, he strapped on snowshoes to explore the rolling aspen forest encompassing their proposed homesite in Indian Springs Ranch. Once he had the job, he continued his reconnaissance, on foot, becoming acquainted with the contours of the place.
Paying attention to the curves and undulations of the terrain. Hoyt came up with a design that adapts itself to the topography instead of the other way around.
“When you see the property, it’s a natural amphitheater,” Maria Johnson says. “We wanted as little disturbance as possible.”
Designing the home to curve with the shape of the slope allowed the Johnsons to build a shorter driveway and avoid bulldozing the hillside. The reward is an inviting backyard with a natural slope and landscaping, instead of the more common, less attractive, and ecologically unfriendly option of a hillside scar, retaining wall, and asphalt turnaround.
To make the concept work and situate the home nicely into the hillside, the Johnsons had to embrace the unconventional approach of an entry on the lowest level.
One side of that first level backs into the slope, and lacks windows. But guests, including the Johnsons’ four adult daughters, who frequently visit, find that the first level feels like anything but a basement. Hoyt arranged all the guest bedrooms on the side where the landscape slopes down, allowing for floor-to-ceiling windows.