© Josh Johnson
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Efficiency Lab for Architecture PLLC, a firm comprising a team of architects, planners, designers, and educators committed to a better understanding of efficiency in the built environment, is proud to unveil the Telluride Glass House, nestled into the steep cliffs of the Telluride Box Canyon in Colorado. Carved into a vertical wall of Aspen trees, rock cliffs, and wandering creeks, on a 3.4-acre lot adjacent to majestic Bridal Falls, the house consists of three cascading glass boxes with a combined floor area of approximately 7,000 sq. ft.
“Every architect dreams about building the proverbial glass house,” notes Aybars Asci, AIA, LEED, President of Efficiency Lab. “It’s a spatial construct that heightens our sensories and allows us to contemplate our natural surroundings with greater focus and appreciation than we otherwise would.”
Accordingly, when the client approached Efficiency Lab about the desire to build a glasshouse, Asci presented an open plan vision, defined by fluidity, that would blur the boundaries between the landscape and the proposed building environment. The plan focused on the architectural expression of three cantilevered glass boxes. Each 45′ × 45′ glass box is positioned in a moment of suspension, providing a horizontal approach to the vertical terrain of towering Aspens rising from the surrounding mountains and cliffs.
“I came up with the idea of creating something breathtaking in just a few weeks, but it took years of careful refinements to bring the vision to life,” Aybars Asci explains. “While the general concept was quite simple, the project was a reminder that sometimes complexity is the path to achieving such levels of simplicity.”
The steep terrain of the mountainside played a major role in the architectural design, beginning with rockfall and avalanche mitigation elements. The dual hazard conditions required the construction of avalanche and debris flow barriers on the uphill side, while a permanent soil retention system, including anchors tied into the mountainside, created level platforms for the house.
Achieving a Delicate Balance
The three cascading pavilions are cantilevered and stacked in recession. Their composite steel and timber floor framing provides a tectonic lightness of the glass boxes that reinforces their anchoring to the stereotomic mass of the retaining walls. Abundant use of natural finishes further contributes to the integration of the built environment and its natural surroundings, including split-face marble brick, with exposed natural patterns, that finishes the exterior retaining walls.
“There is a sort of symbiotic relationship, where the cantilevers create a delicate connection between the light-footed house and the majestic mountain,” says Asci. “The retaining walls merge into the slopes and integrate with the mountain, while the pavilions, suspended in space, create a counterpoint of lightness.”