American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2008 Professional Awards
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Plan drawing.
Site context diagram: Unlike other lots in the same development, the site brings the character of the adjacent nature preserve across the lot line and into the residence.
Native meadow plantings surround the house and connect to the mountains beyond. (Photo: Ron Lutsko, Jr)
At the entrance of the residence, stone clad terraces lead to the front door. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
Natural steel defines the edge of each terrace and extends out beyond the paving into the landscape. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
The rusted steel fins define monoculture beds of native plants that transition between the formal terraces and the surrounding native plantings. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
The contrast with the adjacent development in building and landscape is visible from the terraces leading to the front door. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)


Ketchum Residence, Ketchum, Idaho
Lutsko Associates, San Francisco, California

"A refreshing example of how landscape architecture can transform a home in a conventional neighborhood. The house dissolves into the landscape, the colors are beautiful, the path is simple, and the focus is on the unbelievable meadow. The landscape architect added great value for the owners, as well as their neighbors. What a wonderful place to live."

— 2008 Professional Awards Jury Comments

PROJECT STATEMENT: The Ketchum residence was designed in contrast to the typical suburban lots of its neighbors. The plant palette of the adjacent nature preserve sweeps into the residential site as a form of orchestrated restoration that extends the site into the distant landscape. To mediate between the domestic and the wild, formally crafted outdoor living spaces inhabit the transition zones, punctuating it’s relationship to the ecosystem beyond.

PROJECT NARRATIVE: Though located in a beautiful natural setting, the undeveloped Ketchum residence site was the same as any other average American middle-class subdivision lot. In most developed lots throughout the surrounding area, the mountains and the native ecosystems are appreciated only as a long-distance view that contrasts with the other homes and gardens in the foreground. The design vision for this residence was to instead reach out to the adjacent ecology and invite it into the residential landscape. Through careful plant selection and sensitive inter-weaving of the domestic landscape and the greater wild landscape, the property line was blurred instead of accentuated and the ½ acre lot was visually expanded to the adjacent ridgeline miles away.

The residence is located in the scenic and rugged Wood River Valley. Sun Valley is a high desert climate with only 15 inches of precipitation annually. The valley is far enough north to receive up to 15 hours of sun in the summer, but also experiences harsh winter conditions, making it a cherished destination for recreation vacations. These extreme conditions also encouraged the evolution of a unique ecosystem that is home to a diverse array of native wildflowers and perennials that explode in growth and color in the summer meadows after waiting dormant throughout the winter snow cover.

Many of the Valley residents, which includes the towns of Ketchum, Sun Valley, Bellevue and Hailey, live most of the year in a different location and migrate to Idaho to retreat from their hectic urban lives. The homes they build for themselves here are often a part of a development pattern that is much less reflective of the local ecology and more reflective of the suburban developments from where they come.

The project site is located on a suburban street but is also at the base of a foothill that is protected open space. The building was conceived of as a “garden wall” – a wall that folded and wrapped, creating pavilions that were open to the surrounding landscape. The architect sited the residence to capitalize on relationships with the larger surrounding landscape, placing the building at odds with the immediate subdivision roadways and homes, while capturing views of near and distant mountains.

The residence is the part-time, year-round home of a modern art collector. The design team worked closely with the client to tailor the design to fit her needs while also convincing her of the beauty and openness that would be accomplished by engaging the surrounding preserve. The design moderates the transitions between the wild landscape and the domestic landscape in the formalized spaces for gathering and entertaining. These main constructed interventions in the landscape include a terraced entry walkway and driveway that link the building to the street and neighborhood, an outdoor living space in the rear of the property facing the hillside, and a series of smaller building courtyards. The remainder of the site functions as an orchestrated restoration that continues the plant palette from the adjacent mountainside into the site and around the building.

In the front entry of the house a series of shallow stepped stone terraces, retained by low cor-ten steel edges, form the walkway from the street to the residence. The steel edges extend out beyond the terraces as low walls that bound planting beds comprised of monoculture plantings isolated from the native meadow. The monoculture plantings create a transition between the constructed hardscape and the native plantings. The walls also extend beyond the planting beds into the meadow, maintaining their height as the ground drops away. The lines formed by the steel walls are parallel to the slope of the landform beyond and draw the eye back and up to the foothill.

Partially enclosed by the architecture are domestic exterior spaces that extend two pavilions into the native plantings. The two pavilion spaces, which are immediately adjacent to the kitchen, are paved with stone, bounded by lawn, and defined by flat planes, low walls and crisp edges.

The landscape architect used a native plant palette to continue the native grassland sweep from the adjacent mountainside down to the rear of the building and around to the front of the residence and street. Grading was designed to mimic the pre-construction landforms, while emphasizing the sweep of planting around the building. The use of native plantings also reduces the landscape’s dependence on irrigation in the summer months and increases the value of the land as habitat for local flora and fauna. Throughout the summer the landscape is filled with insects, birds and other wildlife that regularly forget they left the realm of the nature preserve and entered the domain of humans.

The Ketchum residence serves as a demonstration of a different approach to second home development in the Wood River Valley that fosters a healthier relationship to the regional ecology. The openness, elegance and connection to the wider landscape promotes an experience of the locality that many part-time residents would not otherwise encounter. The design is the immersion of the domestic into wild.


Project Principal:
Ron Lutsko Jr. of Lutsko Associates

Project Manager:
Laura Jerrard of Lutsko Associates

Allied Works Architecture

Structural Engineer:
Matt Morell

S. Erwin Excavation

Landscape Contractor:
Kelly Weston, Native Landscapes

Paving Contractor:
Lawrence Smith, Valley Paving

General Contractor:
Dembergh Construction, Inc.

Steve Butler & Associates

Ned Kahn

Stone: Purple Chinese Sandstone and Desert Rose Fines from Lyngo Garden Materials;

Paving: Asphalt concrete paving w/ 3/8" 'Perma Bark' aggregate by International Stone rolled into top layer



Beyond the formalized landscape spaces, meadows planted with a select mix of native grasses and wildflowers informed by the adjacent foothills envelops the architecture. The steel fins extend into the native meadow as the grade drops behind. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
The native plantings sweep up to the terraces at the side of the house. (Photo:Marion Brenner Photography)
A casual path meanders through the native meadow, linking the two outdoor living spaces and the entrances to the residence. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
The transition between the planted meadow and the undisturbed native vegetation is marked only by low barbed wire fence. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
At the rear of the residence, low walls and a small patch of lawn form an outdoor living space that transitions from the home to the nature preserve beyond. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
The outdoor gathering space transitions from the domestic spaces of the home to the wild hillside. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
A series of outdoor rooms further blur the boundary between interior and exterior at the edges of the architecture. A custom gate was designed by artist Ned Kahn to maintain enclosed transparency at the entrance to the space. (Photo: Marion Brenner Photography)
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