When Faulkner Architects was asked to design a house on a spectacular site in Truckee, California, the Placer County-based design practice allowed the beautiful landscape to dictate the design. The contemporary home, aptly named Lookout House for its views, emphasizes indoor/outdoor living with its full-height glazing and natural material palette. The home design also focuses on sustainability and energy efficiency, as seen in its mass-heavy concrete walls, radiant heated stone floors, R80 insulated roof and high-efficiency mechanical and lighting equipment.
Located at the base of a 3-million-year-old volcano, the Lookout House is set on a north-facing 20-degree slope perched 6,300 feet above sea level, on a clearing surrounded by second-growth Jeffrey Pine and White Fir trees. In addition to contributing to the forest’s growth, the region’s volcanic history further defines the land with volcanic sediment and boulders as large as 15 feet in diameter.
To center views of the landscape, the architects partially inserted the building into the slope — a narrow slot in the home’s massing mirrors a cleared ski access near the site — and wrapped the home with insulated 20-inch concrete walls made from local sand and aggregate. Full-height openings and glazed sliding doors that open up the house to prevailing southwesterly winds punctuate the thick fire-resistant and low-maintenance steel-and-concrete facade. The minimalist palette continues inside, with parts of the entry and central staircase bathed in warm light from red-orange glass symbolic of cooling magma.
“Produced by layer upon layer of sketches and study that first seek to discover the existing attributes and characteristics of the place, this architecture does not reflect a singular concept or idea,” the architects explained. “The built place, including its appearance, is the product of the making of a series of experiences that together set the stage for life to unfold. The process is about an approach to problem-solving on a difficult but epic alpine site. The completed place envelopes the continuous space of the slope up to the south sun and mountain top that has existed for millions of years.”
Images via Joe Fletcher