Whitefish’s ‘Confluence House’ scores regional landscape architecture award

By: CTA Staff
17 October 2017
Header photo by Henry Domke.
CTA recently received a design award from the Idaho/Montana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for work completed on “Confluence House” in Whitefish, MT. The home — also designed by CTA — and landscape designs were completed in 2016.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Just outside of Whitefish, at the confluence of two rivers, lays a 15-acre oasis of open meadows and tranquil wetlands surrounded by old growth forest, providing the perfect backdrop for a fly fisherman’s dream home. Beginning with a vision to maintain as much of the existing site as possible, capturing the extraordinary environment of the property, and celebrating the owner’s passion, the design team looked to the river for inspiration — setting a new standard for simplistic, natural, and harmonious living.

With the aspiration of becoming a seamless attribution of the natural environment rather than an interruption, the project design became an extension of the river: a confluence between the built and natural environment. To celebrate the breathtaking views of the property and beyond, architects and landscape architects worked closely together to site the home and outdoor living areas on a meadow peninsula created by the junction of the two rivers.

The integrated design team used three separate home structures and the landscape to act as a bridge between the built and natural environments. The main house lies parallel to the bank of the Whitefish, River falling perfectly in line with its steady flow, while the guest house is positioned to overlook the adjacent Haskill Creek.

These two structures are connected by a common roof, which provides a sheltered outdoor living space referred to as the Eddy Patio. This gathering space was specifically designed to celebrate the wonderful confluence of friends and family, while highlighting the junction of the two rivers naturally becoming one.

The third structure in the complex is a detached garage that was strategically placed to create a quiet inner courtyard. This space provides the experience of a private walk in the nearby woods. The main walkway begins at the guest parking area and flows through a large, covered opening in the garage structure, providing a physical and emotional transition from public living to a private escape. To mimic the growth of the river, this walkway gradually swells as it flows through the courtyard and to the Eddy Patio.

At the mouth of the path, the large, partially covered River Patio is an outdoor extension of the main indoor living area. This walkway was carefully positioned to focus the view on the natural confluence of the rivers and the forest beyond. Architecture was used to provide a picture frame of this view. To further emphasize this axis, a large 17”x17”x 17’ reclaimed wood beam — representing a piece of driftwood — was aligned with the walk and provides seating.

Landscape in the courtyard was informed by the creation of a “stream” to reinforce the confluence theme. A small, forested area represents the headwaters while also softening the architecture and screening the view from the neighbors. The stream meanders through the courtyard, passing a wildflower meadow and forming small pools on each end of the Eddy Patio. Custom fish art was added to the pools. Riparian vegetation and boulders strengthen the theme and interject into the hardscape. Large scuppers from the roof spill stormwater into the stream, creating temporary water features and rain gardens.

With emphasis on simplicity, only stone, concrete, and wood were used for hard materials. No traditional lawn areas were installed and emphasis was given to adjacent native vegetation which allowed the Confluence House to blend effortlessly with the unique environment already gifted to the site.

WES BAUMGARTNER, CTA LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT

“Certainly a highlight of the project was working with the home’s innovative owners, Hal and Mary Williamson. Together, we created a personalized and site-appropriate retreat for them, their family, and their friends.”

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