Prairie House

Honor Award - Residential Design
Colwell Shelor
Inspired by the region's raw natural beauty with its extreme semi-arid steppe climate, and the historic, rural character of the site, the landscape architect transformed what was once an exposed, conventional brick house on a hill into a bold, contemporary residence and garden united with the prairie in Dodge City, Kansas. The project serves to transform prevailing attitudes that look at landscape as an abstraction only to be viewed from inside into one that expresses landscape as a vital part of the whole. The landscape architect designed two additions to the residence - an entry vestibule to the south, giving the residence a much needed protected entry, and an extended living room to the north - both with extended shade structure canopies that transition light quality from opaque to semitransparentto full light and visually anchor the house. The uncomplicated composition floats within a meadow of drought-tolerant grasslands, servingto frame long views and establish an appealing, fluid entry sequence to the front door. The clean lines and restrained palette of rustic Corten beams, slender columns and siding of varying widths, cast-in-place concrete, gravel and water create a contemplative, inwardly focused space in front, and a comfortable outdoor entertainment patio to the north. Using climate-appropriate plantings and inflicting little damage to the site, the landscape architect created a comfortable series of spaces for family life to transpire while expressing the client's strong environmental ethic to respect and honor the land. The existing landscape was largely non-existent and consisted of a lawn surrounding the house with a spattering of ornamental shrubs. All turf was removed. A series of linear concrete retaining walls and stepped planters wrap the house and gently connect the terraces back to the earth. Native species are abundant at the outer edges of the gardens and increasingly evolve to more domestic selections; those closest to the house contain a plethora of colorful plant combinations and culinary herbs. A grove of Desert Willows with a native, drought tolerant understory screen the site from the highway and provide a sense of compression and expansion during one's arrival.

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