Modern Living the Dynia Way

A Canvas for LivingDuring Homestead Magazine’s Showcase of Homes, many patrons had the same response to one of the residences—a modernist masterwork located on Gros Ventre Butte. As they sauntered through the wide, airy rooms with chestnut-hued cement floors and black steel accents, they blurted out, “I could live in this house!”

But why had the sentiment taken them by surprise?

We sat down for a chat with Stephen Dynia of Stephen Dynia Architects to discuss his history of pushing the design envelope in Jackson Hole, and how the “surprise” of modern architecture may actually exist in its perfect harmony with our landscape.

Stephen Dynia’s work is well-known throughout Jackson Hole. Chances are, if you’ve encountered a spare, clean construction with light truss work and sparkling glass, you’ve come across a home or commercial space with the Dynia stamp. Notably, the firm designed the local Center for the Arts building, which opened in 2004, as well as multiple other buildings in the valley. Dynia himself surveys the town from what he affectionately dubs his “plateau”: an unexpected mixed-use development reached by veering up the bluff right after the 89/22 Junction. There, Stephen Dynia Architects works from an open, multi-level structure, and a series of metal-sided work/live spaces next door beckon with glass entries and bright doors.

Innovative AnglesIt’s true that modern architectural work such as this plateau and the showcased Gros Ventre residence often stand out in a sea of traditionally “western” homes, including the nouveau lodge aesthetic favored by homeowners who build to impress. However, Dynia’s take is that much of this architecture is “based on a romance with something that doesn’t quite exist in this time.” He points out that the original log buildings of this valley were built within the constraints of the materials available, and were intended to keep the environment out, rather than let it in. If current Jackson Hole home ownership is all about views, then homesteader values were about warmth, protection, and barricades from snowdrifts and curious wildlife.

Dynia considers newer homes built in the log tradition to be theatrical—theirs is a style that swerves away from the path of history and the actual materials of modern building. In his own design work, he “tries to transcend something that is merely stylistic” to find a more contemporaneous mode of expression.

“My mission is that architecture should be relevant to the era that it’s built in.”

A Site to BeholdDynia strives to make history with his designs, rather than invoke nostalgia for a vanished place and time. To this end, his firm is rigorous about relating every structure to its place, and thereby interpreting the place via architectural elements.

Dynia’s is a design philosophy hewn among the soaring glass and steel structures of New York City, where he got his start at a large firm that specialized in a corporate Modernist aesthetic. These are buildings that, in the truest interpretation of Modernism, are “consistent with [their] method of construction.” Once transplanted to Jackson Hole, Dynia sought out the trace of a Mies van der Rohe-designed home at the Snake River Ranch, a mostly-scrapped project that nevertheless represented the first U.S. design by the modern architecture giant during the 1930’s. In this Dynia saw encouragement–Jackson Hole had already begun incubating the cosmopolitan leanings that could lead to an embrace of modern style.Detail

In conversation, Dynia references other notable architects who have added immeasurably to the recognizable architecture of the valley. Mentioning the Teton County Library and Mad River’s flagship headquarters south of Jackson, he is the first to acknowledge that the wave of modern building is multifarious. Rather than limit building concepts to “abide by look rather than experience,” the unique qualities of our valley require “the freedom of a more expressive building form.”

For Dynia’s firm–particularly in regards to local residences–this experience begins in the sequence of how one enters a home. He likes adding drama to this approach by at first denying expansive views, only to re-introduce them. This sudden reveal draws a gasp and a significant pause. In moments like these, we are truly inside a space—participating in its interaction with a setting. Hallways and stairwells opening to glimpses of sweeping Gros Ventre views surely contributed to the same alchemy during Homestead’s Showcase.

In these award-winning 28x28x28 cubes in downtown Jackson, three levels of living culminate in 360 degree views from the uppermost roof deck. Eschewing the urge to build outwards, these cubes interpret “ how you can live in a place differently” and “literally heighten the experience of landscape” as you climb up to see the whole valley laid below you.

In these award-winning 28x28x28 cubes in downtown Jackson, three levels of living culminate in 360 degree views from the uppermost roof deck. Eschewing the urge to build outwards, these cubes interpret“ how you can live in a place differently” and “literally heighten the experience of landscape” as you climb up to see the whole valley laid below you.

Dynia speculates that our occasional resistance to the stripped down and simplified lines of modern building wells from discomfort. “Psychologically, people are afraid of simplicity.” At the same time, the more restrained the space in its embellishments, the more soothing and reflective it becomes. The clean, uncluttered architectural canvas asks to be completed by the personality of its residents, while more “fluid and sculptural” lines imbue the home with a sense of serenity.

“My work always incorporates somes kind of innovation and inspiration from nature,” Dynia says. He plays with elements like light to mimic the act of walking in the woods, and is always seeking new ways to pay homage to the texture of a landscape.

Dynia Architects currently splits its efforts between Jackson Hole and a number of exciting projects in Denver. Recently, a former truck terminal-turned-urban-office-hotspot known as Drive earned the firm a prestigious AIA Award. These new projects indulge Dynia’s long-held passion for contributing to the culture of community, just as in his home designs, he favors open, centralized spaces that corral loved ones together to bolster the attendant “culture of a family.” In the firm’s sustainable new projects, the existing infrastructure (truck terminals and iron foundries) are recycled into energetic community spaces that are meant to bridge our contemporary mode of detachment living—i.e. live in one zone, work and play in another. To this end, Drive, and the under-construction Drive 2 all contain a shared conference room or lounge, with garage-style doors on every floor that dispel separation from the outdoors with a simple lift upwards.Roof Garden 022

This vision is the same one Dynia has for Jackson, which has been his design laboratory for decades. “Do you want a town that simply preserves itself?” Dynia asks. Of course, his answer is a resounding “No.” Rather, he is encouraged by the current balance being struck in downtown Jackson between conservation and human habitation. In his opinion, the “town is getting healthier” as it continues to embrace mixed use zoning and greater urban-style density. This is the modus operandi behind his own work-live zone on the “plateau.”

So, back to the reactions of those Showcase attendees. Surprise, Dynia thinks, is a hallmark of what his firm is doing here. Viewers will always react to light and the experience of a space, and Dynia’s architecture is intended to capitalize on just that. The austere lines of a modern home may intimidate from the curb, but once inside, an unexpected warmth and peace take hold. In sum, “leadership in design is about leading.” It is about creating bold, benchmark projects and presenting new modes of lived experience, whether in the great room of a home or in the lobby of the Center for the Arts, a glass-framed Snow King beyond.

That surprise is, in fact, “the story of my time here. That’s the payoff.”

2013 Jackson Hole Showcase of Homes: Recap

This year as part of the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, Homestead Magazine’s Jackson Hole Showcase of Homes presented something unique: the chance for patrons to leave the gallery space for the home interior space. In recognition of the vibrant architectural, design, and building community of the valley, the Showcase offered ticket holders an intimate glimpse into every aspect of three magnificent local homes, and the opportunity to interface directly with the design professionals who made it so.

From airy modern to warmly-textured western to updated lodge luxury, the three featured properties—Gros Ventre Overlook, Owl Creek Elk Refuge, and Tucker Ranch Retreat—meant a full sampling of the latest in architectural and design innovation. “We loved the fact that all three houses were very different and all three spectacular!” noted one guest. Spaced over two glorious fall days in Jackson Hole, 200 guests experienced a treasure hunt of a day with rambles through “dream homes” that are usually sealed to the public, hors d’oeuvres, and most importantly, the chance to enjoy face-to-face conversations with premier valley artisans in the fields of architecture, building, and interior and exterior design.

The Showcase of Homes was successful in raising $9000 for local charities selected by the generous homeowners that opened up their doors, including The Grand Teton National Park Foundation, Center for the Arts, and JH Land Trust. Each organization will also receive a matching grant through the Old Bill’s Fun Run for Charities. Event organizer Megan Jenkins counted the event a resounding success based on “the enthusiasm showed for each project by all of the attendees” and the “opportunity for people to have one-on-one conversations with the design professionals.  You could really appreciate the work and craftsmanship of each home.  People really had a great time and were extremely complimentary. ”  She hopes that the attendees were inspired and motivated to try “innovative things with their own spaces.”

This was echoed by multiple guests, who indicated that they attended precisely to network with design professionals and were looking forward to following up with the artisans who designed, built, or furnished the homes they visited during the tour. One noted the “informative,” “friendly,” and “welcoming” aspect of the Showcase, while another enthused, “I loved seeing the exquisite houses and having all of the builders, designers and others present to answer questions.”

Participating design professionals were able to connect with patrons in the context of their own design schemes and craftsmanship, illuminating their work in new ways. “It really is rewarding to have great clients who let you show off their home and attendees who comment on what a great job we all did,” noted Sharon Nunn, Vice-President of Ellis Nunn & Associates, Inc., whose firm designed the Owl Creek Refuge. “I look forward to doing it again next year.”

Bradley Suske of The Bradley Company—landscaping firm for the Tucker Rancher Retreat—felt similarly. “I thought it was an amazing experience for me,” he said. “I really felt like I was in my element.”

Megan Jenkins was pleasantly surprised at “how excited people were to be able to tour some of the masterpieces that are in this valley.” The three homes on the self-guided Jackson Hole Showcase of Homes tour allowed a multi-layered peek into all the creativity afoot in the Intermountain West, and the Renaissance in western style being forged by our singular community of creators, drafters, and craftspeople. With the canvas of the Tetons as its backdrop, Jackson Hole’s creative identity continues to evolve, and these exciting new properties are on the vanguard of it all.

Our mission at Homestead Magazine is to highlight Jackson Hole’s top-notch residential architecture and design community for local homeowners and visitors. Next year, we hope you’ll join us to tour one-of-a-kind homes, learn the ins and outs of the design process, and be inspired by the myriad possibilities of your own spaces.

Ben Roth Takes Outdoor Showering to a Whole New Level

 

There’s nothing quite as glorious as an outdoor shower. You’re naked. You’re outside. The air is warm and the water is warmer. When you’re coming in from a long day spent in the sun, even rinsing off in a tiny space made with driftwood walls feels like luxury.

But this outdoor shower by local artist and designer Ben Roth takes the experience to a whole new level. Jackson couple Scott and Sandy approached Ben to design this shower as part of an addition to their private residence on North Gros Ventre Butte. The addition, designed by Carney Logan and Burke, was Sandy’s gift to Scott; as a lover of outdoor showering, the feature was his top requirement for the renovation.

Scott wanted an outdoor shower that would allow him to view the Tetons while he bathed. And while he didn’t want to offend his neighbors, he loved the idea of his head and feet being visible to passers-by. So Ben took measurements to tailor the shower specifically to Scott’s body, and came up with a chic elliptical design that provided privacy without compromising the Tetons. The carbon steel screen is also meant to rust over time, allowing the shower to blend into its surroundings while requiring zero upkeep – so Scott could shower nearly camouflaged by his surroundings (except for his head and feet of course!).

But when Sandy asked that her measurements be incorporated into the plans, the ellipse became much shallower and the design lost its original appeal. Realizing that she’d probably never use the shower, she asked that Ben return to the Scott-specific design. With that, the shower became Scott’s completely custom personal outdoor shower. Now that sounds pretty glorious to us!