02-11-13 | News

Park City's Hillside Head-Turner

Landscape Architecture by Northland Design Group

Nearly two years of work from concept to completion expanded this Utah mountainside residence with a variety of hardscaped outdoor rooms, fire features, a spa and improved views of the surrounding scenery. Equally spaced stone columns with custom designed hood lights were placed down the drive to tie the architecture into the landscape, and large boulders were placed with a crane to provide a natural feel.

The design team enlisted local stone supplier Delta Stone to match the new outdoor living areas to the flagstone facing on the columns supporting the residence's second floor deck. Delta Stone also provided cut blonde sandstone and the boulders for the main driveway.

One of the four fire features was installed in a recessed half circle trough adjacent to the spa (Spa Source), which is elevated to provide a better vision of the hillside.


Scrub oak on the site was cleared and replaced with strains of dogwood, spruce, sumac, yarrow, and various ground covers and grasses. The placement and lower profile of the plants expanded the property's panoramic views from the residence and outdoor rooms, and blended the property into the surrounding landscape.

Evergreens 20 feet tall and larger remained throughout the remodel, and more were added to scale down open areas around the home and break up the prevailing winds. Sixteen-foot evergreens were placed on the downhill side of the property to push the wind up and over the site without blocking the view.

The patio, walls, columns and seat walls were faced with "Heber Red' flagstone and "Park City Gold' sandstone about 3-4 inches thick, cut to specified sizes to match the existing stonework.

Northland designed an Olympic-cauldron style fire feature for the main entry of the house based on a piece of abstract art provided by the homeowners. Salt Lake City blacksmithing firm Lightning Forge was commissioned to craft the steel and copper sculpture, which greets guests at the top of the driveway.

Northland Design researched Utah-area Native American pottery and basket patterns to incorporate into the stone patios. The "Tiger Tooth' pattern was inspired by a basket weave, and the spirals were developed from samples of indigenous clay pottery.

More than 4,000 square feet of stone patio was laid over the concrete slab during construction. Heaters were installed for all the patios to keep them accessible all year.

The red flagstone was used as large, wide banding, and created what became known as the "Tiger Tooth' pattern around the focal point areas. The 6, 9 and 12-inch cut blond sandstone was used to create a lighter feel for the large patio spaces.

A partial view of all three fire pits from above reveals the panoramic views of downtown Park City and the Deer Valley ski slopes. The "fire garden' and seating wall (left) was installed on the periphery to draw users out into the space to enjoy the spectacle.

The property included more than 35 feet of grade change, and project goals included a number of defined, detailed areas balanced and blended with the surrounding mountainside. Northland and project masons C&R Stone created numerous retaining walls, seat walls and transition areas to make the most of the available space.

The homeowner's main drive at the outset of construction. The design team and contractors had to be careful not to damage the surrounding native plantings and open scenic areas that the clients retained during the build.

The homeowner of this Park City, Utah residence said his project goal was to watch drivers veer off the road at the bottom of the hill after seeing the "awesomeness" of his remodeled property. When they heard that, the architects from Northland Design Group knew they were in for some serious fun. Built in 1990 on a steep hillside above "Old Town' Park City, the site was full of masses of scrub oak that limited views and severely underused the available land. The clients wanted to be able to enjoy new outdoor living areas during all four seasons, and have spaces for personal use and entertaining guests. Since the homeowners were avid skiers, this would include making the site useable in the middle of winter, a serious challenge for the design team.

The team drafted plans to maintain the look and feel of the existing construction and architecture, while improving on the exterior design. The homeowners wanted a variety of defined spaces with a large amount of detail, without overwhelming the views or the outdoor area. The viewing experience started with the initial views of the site as drivers rounded the corner, and carried on around the residence until the sight reached the rear view mirror. Challenging the creation of these spaces was more than 35 feet of grade change, and not disturbing a large portion of the site designated to remain native.

Northland's team of landscape architects spent hours learning the site and becoming familiar with each opportunity and constraint. The large scope of the project would require a fair amount of demolition, exposing the views of downtown Park City and the ski slopes of Deer Valley while preserving the vegetation and natural beauty of the mountainside. Large 20-foot-plus evergreens would remain, and more would be added to scale down the open areas around the home and mitigate the mountain winds. Sixteen-foot evergreens were installed on the downhill side of the property to direct the prevailing winds up and over the site without sacrificing the views.

When selecting the materials for the project, Northland had to look no further than the client's front yard. The existing deck wrapping around the second floor of the residence was supported by large stone columns, about 15-feet tall, faced with a red flagstone locally quarried in Heber City by Delta Stone.

The client loved the look of these columns, and the team used them as the basis for the hardscape theme throughout the new outdoor spaces. The homeowners had also requested natural and locally sourced project materials, so Northland returned to Delta Stone for more "Heber Red' flagstone, and also selected cut blonde "Park City Gold' sandstone for contrast.

Setting the Scene
One of the client's primary design goals for the remodel was that the front entry's long driveway should make a stunning first impression. The challenge was allowing the native landscape to dominate the scene, while connecting the architecture and design of the residence down the graded driveway to the street.

The client was opposed to stacked boulder walls that looked man-made, so with the help of Aaron Hicken at Delta Stone, the designers visited a quarry east of Heber City. After hours of measurements and crawling over hundreds of boulders, the team found the right rocks for the job.

Two weeks later, a large construction crane set the boulders in place, and following some minor adjustments and plantings to fill in the landscape, the entry drive met the client's desire for an impressive yet natural effect. Stone columns with custom designed hood lights were installed along the drive for visibility, and to tie the architecture further into the landscape. This theme continued down to the street, where native landscaping was retained and replanted.

Large flagstone pieces were used to create wide banding, and what became known as a "Tiger Tooth' pattern around the focal point areas. The smaller 6, 9 and 12-inch cut blond sandstone was used to create a lighter feel for the large patio spaces. In all, over 4,000 square feet of stone patio was laid over a concrete rat slab, and radiant heat was installed to make the patios accessible year-round.

The client's interest in the local culture led Northland to study and discover Native American pottery and basket patterns native to Utah, which the team weaved into the stone patios. The "Tiger Tooth' pattern came from a basket weave, and the spirals were found on samples of clay pottery. The client immediately approved this idea and it became the thread that tied the overall project together. Due to the complexity of the installation and the need for true craftsmanship, Northland retained C&R Stone, owned by Cory and Rhett Robison of Mapleton, Utah, as the project masons, who coordinated ordering, purchase and installation of all the stonework on the project.

Art, Park City Style
The homeowners were also avid art collectors, and wanted to see art and sculpture added to the landscape. Artistic elements were added to the planting pots, creating a softening effect to balance the abundance of hardscape surfaces. The shapes and sizes of the pots were hand selected by Northland to fit the spaces and provide an overall balance.

The client provided an image of an abstract art piece, from which the Northland design team devised a steel and copper fire sculpture reminiscent of the cauldron that contains the Olympic flame. The designers made a small-scale card stock model of the sculpture, and with the client's approval, they commissioned Christian De Francesca, partner at the Salt Lake City-based custom blacksmithing shop Lighting Forge, to complete the feature.

Lightning Forge produced a full-scale model of the sculpture from plywood and brought it to the site to check size and scale. With a few minor adjustments, the final product was built and installed, adding to the dramatic entryway that greets arriving guests.

Fired Up
Three additional fire features were included in the design, to create an inviting atmosphere for venturing outside on a cold Park City evening.

A traditional fire pit was installed closest to the home, with ample stone seat walls and recessed lighting for safety and visibility. A "fire garden' was added to the periphery to draw users out into the space and to enjoy the inspiring views. Finally, a half circle fire feature trough was located just outside the spa to provide some additional warmth. The client runs these most nights, sometimes just to look out the windows and see them ablaze. Northland worked with Bratt Landscaping out of Pleasant Grove, Utah, to take the project from blueprints and renderings to the real world.

Bratt's experience on large-scale projects, attention to detail and project management skills were familiar to Northland, and the firms worked together on site to place each plant and make necessary adjustments along the way. A landscape plan is only as good as the contractor installing it, and Bratt proved this was true.

Dennis Loomis Construction oversaw the heavy construction of the project, and solved many of the site's web of logistical challenges, including city approvals, utilities for the fire features and electrical requirements.

The homeowners were the ultimate inspiration for the project. Their imagination and understanding of the creative process allowed the design and construction team the opportunity to be creative themselves. After a year and a half of construction, the project was completed in the summer of 2012, and drivers now pile up regularly at the bottom of the hill.

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