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The View from Within

Like the mixed emotions of a parent as they nurture their children through various stages toward independence, architects spend years creating, nurturing, and investing in our designs with the intent that they will go on to have successful ‘lives’ of their own. When a project’s construction is finished and the punch list is complete, we come to that moment when it’s time to hand over the reins; when our time and passion has resulted in a built environment that is independent of us, and effective and fulfilling for its owners and inhabitants.

In our practice the experience of habitation is greatly influential to the creative process.  So, I find it ironic how few architects get the opportunity to live in a house that they designed. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend 6 days in a ground-up house we just completed in Torrey, Utah:  affectionately referred to as the “CUB” (“Camp Utah Base”).

The experience was, to say the least, incredibly enlightening. My first day there, I admit that I couldn’t help but focus on the micro—the negotiated elements of the house. But then, as the spatial relationships began to sink in, being able to personally experience what we had created reconnected me with the broader, macro level and enabled me to see the house as a true manifestation of our design intent. My family could all simultaneously relax without having to compromise each others’ space, but also could enjoy time together on one part of the site while the rest of the house faded out of the picture.  The airflow and natural light of the interior spaces felt like we were at one with the surrounding landscape atmospherically, but ten steps beyond in comfort. The low awning windows and high clerestories gave us ventilation; the corner windows provided natural light all day and beautifully framed the starry night sky.

I left the CUB, like a parent having just witnessed her child excel at something on their own, reaffirmed that the result of our attentive, considered process will be just fine without us.