The Rancher’s house at Reyrosa Ranch in rural Ellis
County Texas had been originally conceived as a secondary
structure, a gatehouse to a much larger architectural project
designed for the client by Mockbee/Coker and the Rural Studio
out of Auburn, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee. The original
idea was a large ranch house employing regional rural materials
developed in a sculptural way on the Texas blackland prairie.
The project scope was changed after the
budget for the project was reduced significantly, the original
architect passed away and the schedule was extended further out than the client
had desired. Therefore, the client decided to convert the
Rancher’s house, originally a modest structure but
still an inspired design, which was under construction
into the primary ranch house. They decided to add a wing, and put
full commitment into the quality of the completion and
site execution of the project to make it as good as or better than the originally
conceived grander structure. During this process, the landscape
architect was hired to look at the architectural design,
site and program for the completion of the project.
This role inevitably worked into one fulfilling the client’s
desires for the site and the house and molding a new concept.
The landscape architect extended the house pedestrian and
visual access to the site in all four directions from the
main body of the house, thus connecting the house with the
landscape in a more meaningful way.
These extensions took the form of two water troughs constructed
out of raw concrete, that extend the occupant’s view
either into the woods or the horizon to the south. These
troughs also act as birdbaths as they overflow dripping into shallow
edge pools. The clients are avid bird enthusiasts and enjoy
the functionality of the structures to further their recreation
passion. The third extension takes the form of a pedestrian
bridge, which extends eastward from the house into the treetops
as the grade falls away, again a vantage for bird watching.
Finally, the last extension is westward from the house toward
a grass parking area, built with a soil stabilization system,
but hidden by the native buffalo turf. This extension bridges
over a low area next to the house and extends a utilitarian
line of rusted bollards toward the arrival parking. These
act as a stopping point for the cars and signal a subtle
entry sequence into the house.
The siting of the additional wing to the house resulted in
the landscape architect having the client remove a construction
pad and letting the new wing light into the grade as if nothing
had ever been disturbed in the natural contour of the descending
grade toward a swale in the rear of the property. All the
vegetation, which was added, was an extension of the existing
prairie landscape with a few cedar elms rising out of buffalo
and native bluestem. The resulting effect is that building
descended onto the prairie with virtually no disturbance to
the grade or existing landscape, save the small panel of Buffalo
lawn for the grandchildren immediately behind the house.
The native landscape restoration extends further afield to
a reconstructed pond, new foreman’s house, and a new
entry to the ranch. A trail ties the structures and the recreational
areas together areas together and gives the client ultimate
satisfaction in the sophisticated beauty of the native prairie
which has revegetated in a miraculously short time frame.
Finally, the landscape architect has encouraged the owner
to consider a system of new ranch roads which extend out from
the house over hundreds of acres which change the road layout
from one of previous legal orthogonal lines to one that transcends
former legalities and works with the topography, vegetation
and geology. Thus, at the end of the day, the concept, which
has been executed at the house, may transform a recreational
ranch to one that treasures the natural environment.