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No Shrinking Columbine
A trophy house in the Colorado Rockies attempts to blend in while standing out.
By Michael Leccese

“We liked the idea of doing basically nothing,” says David Kamp, ASLA, “and planting very little. This was part of the joy of this project.” On a humid August day in the Rockies, Kamp hikes near an aspen-fringed fern meadow at an elevation of 7,700 feet. We’re up a steep dirt road a few miles from downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado, an eclectic resort and ranching town where on Main Street you might see denim-clad rodeo cowboys saunter by a 50-year-old man with cornrows.

Photo by Ryan Roulette

Kamp’s project, an 80-acre, private-estate landscape called Il Capriccio, offers somewhat similar cultural contrasts. The 15,000-square-foot house, designed by Kamp and architect Michael Rubin, stands out starkly against the native mountain landscape. Yet somehow the house also feels “tucked in” as the native forest brushes against plate-glass windows and enfolds stone terraces. Around Steamboat Springs, this native setting is greener and lusher and has softer geological edges than the rugged high-peaks scenery typical to the Rockies. If vistas were music, this might be Vivaldi rather than Beethoven.

And the house would be Philip Glass: rhythmic, formal, bold, and relentlessly modern. Off-white walls cantilever off the pedestal of a huge concrete foundation supporting the house’s sprawling footprint of 13,000 square feet. Vast, shallow-pitch metal roofs top the walls and are surmounted by a blue-green glass atrium rising above the forest. A central “meridian wall” of honey-colored granite bisects the house. This forms a library wall that extends outside the house into the landscape, framing an auto court on one end and, on the other, creating a kind of flying buttress touching a meadow.

Kamp calls Il Capriccio “an exercise in preservation...not a project about conspicuous landscape but about careful planning.” He says, “Aspens, wildflowers, and ferns were planted only to supplement and extend what was already there.”

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